In the second debate – Stage 3 was split into two debates on the 24th June and 1st July – Mark Isherwood (Conservative) stood up for tenants again by discussing our campaign and tabling an amendment to improve the licensing and registration of rogue landlords. He recommended that data be collected centrally and to target enforcement better so that all landlords are inspected and registered, not just the good ones. Full transcript here.
Mark Isherwood AM (North Wales) (Conservative)
I move amendment 363 in my name.
Amendment 363 relates to enforcement under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and the duty to report in relation to a property’s condition. This relates to the housing health and safety rating system, which the Minister has chosen to retain as the quality standard for the housing that might require enforcement if it fails to meet the standards specified in the 2004 Act. Amendment 364 also relates specifically to enforcement, in relation to the duty to report selective licensing, and to targeting enforcement rather than simply using it for registering people who are generally compliant.
Members may have received a letter from Let Down in Wales—a campaign group that is part of the UK Let Down coalition of private renter groups, which is urging the UK Government, Welsh Government and Scottish Government to reform the private rented sector. The group welcomes the fact that I mentioned its report last week when we were discussing this Bill. In discussing the Bill’s proposed regulation of the private rented sector, the group said that it would not work. There is an enormous need for a central body of advice, support and information for tenants and a need, it said, for tackling rogue landlords and bad letting agencies. The housing ombudsman is being looked at in England and the housing tribunal is being looked at in the Scottish housing Bill, whereas the Housing (Wales) Bill proposes voluntary regulation and training for landlords, which it said is the only thing that is changing for tenants. It refutes that there would be any confidence in this system.
The issue is one of enforcement; the powers of enforcement, the Minister has decided, will remain as the powers applying under the 2004 Act. This simply, therefore, requires better knowledge on the basis of what is actually happening, whereas currently, the Minister has stated in writing to me, the data on enforcement are not collected centrally.
Minister for Housing and Regeneration (Carl Sargeant)
On this group of amendments, we are close to the end now, and local authorities already produce reports on this information, compiled by the local government data unit. I therefore repeat what I said before: these amendments are unnecessary and unhelpful. It is ironic that Janet Finch-Saunders and Mark Isherwood, week after week, talk to us about the red-tape agenda, yet this very amendment seeks to introduce more red tape into the housing sector—that is complete nonsense. I urge Members to reject amendments 363 and 364 today.
Do you wish to reply, Mark Isherwood?
Mark Isherwood (North Wales) (Conservative)
Yes, very briefly. This is about better regulation, not more regulation. It is about doing what the tenants themselves say needs to be done to help, support and enable them to tackle bad landlords when they encounter them, rather than have, as they said, a system that would not give tenants confidence in it. The only thing that is changing is a voluntary regulation rather than enforcement. You wrote to me telling me that you did not have data on the numbers of enforcements under the 2004 Act; this seeks to remedy that, so that any Minister for housing is properly informed when proposing how to address matters such as abuse of tenants or tenants living in unfit property.