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Labour plans to empower renters ‘to call time on bad landlords’

The plans would set standards to ensure homes are “fit for human habitation”.

Labour has pledged a “consumer rights revolution” which will introduce legal minimum standards for all rental homes because people currently have “fewer rights renting a family home than you do buying a fridge-freezer”.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the plans will empower renters to “call time on bad landlords” by setting standards to ensure homes are “fit for human habitation”.

The proposals, which Labour would introduce if it wins the general election, include requirements for safe wiring and appliances, freedom from damp and vermin infestation, “appropriate” water and sewage facilities, appropriate facilities for preparing and cooking food, and general good repair.

The party would also introduce new powers for councils to license landlords and hit those who break the rules with “tough” fines, citing the example of Labour-run Newham Council in east London, where landlords paid £150 per property for a five-year licence and faced fines of up to £20,000 if they failed to do so.

But Tory housing minister Gavin Barwell said the licensing scheme amounted to a “tenants’ tax” which would lead to landlords pushing up rents to meet the cost.

Labour’s housing pledges were announced alongside its own analysis which it said showed the cost of England’s 1.3 million sub-standard private rented properties.

Tenants are spending £800 million a month on homes the Government classes as “non-decent”, and around a quarter of this, some £2.3 billion a year, is paid by housing benefit, according to Labour’s research, based on the 2014 English Housing Survey and conducted in consultation with the House of Commons library.

Mr Healey said: “Our homes are at the centre of our lives but at the moment renters too often don’t have basic consumer rights that we take for granted in other areas. In practice you have fewer rights renting a family home than you do buying a fridge-freezer. As a result, too many are forced to put up with unacceptable, unfit and downright dangerous housing.

“The number of families renting from a private landlord has soared since 2010 but decisions made by Conservative ministers have made it easier for a minority of bad landlords to game the system.

“Most landlords provide decent homes that tenants are happy with, but these rogue landlords are ripping off both renters and the taxpayer by making billions from rent and housing benefit letting out sub-standard homes.

He added: “We’d introduce proper minimum standards to put renters back in control, and give councils the powers they need to tackle the worst offenders.”

But Tory Mr Barwell hit back: “This is just another misjudged and nonsensical Jeremy Corbyn idea: a town hall ‘tenants’ tax’ that would hit every tenant in the pocket with higher rents. We want to help people have good quality housing, which is why we have taken targeted action against the small minority of rogue landlords, without hitting every single home with expensive municipal red tape that will force up costs and reduce supply.”

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