Conservative ideology for a long time has been to minimise the state and maximise profits for those who already have money. The height of this was the selling off of social housing that began in the 1980s under Thatcher.

The right to buy scheme, on paper, seemed a decent enough idea and gave long term council tenants an opportunity to get on the property ladder, but that was just a front to the true motive. The reality behind it was the number of state owned social houses was drastically reduced as the social housing was sold off yet no more was built in its place. Those people who previously would have relied upon this affordable housing were forced into private rented accommodation where landlords charged much more for properties often let in a barely habitable state.

The Conservative Lib Dem coalition of the last five years reinvigorated the scheme in 2012 to increase the  discounts available to council tenants, and despite assurances that they would build replacement social housing the actual figure over their government was 1 built for every ten sold. The Conservatives are now driving forward their agenda and rolling it out to properties owned by housing associations.

The end game for this will be no social housing, meaning those on low incomes struggle even more to make ends meet while landlords pocket rent but do the minimum, leaving houses in a state of disrepair. Housing benefit, that would previously have stayed within the state when paid to councils and housing associations, will now be going to those same landlords. It is a stark situation that looks to be getting even worse.

Legislation passed last year means that letting agents are required to join a redress scheme to give some protection to tenants who fall victim of unscrupulous landlords. Unlike some local authorities Labour led Leeds City Council is out to make sure that all those who need to sign up to a redress scheme have.

Labour Councillor Debra Coupar, executive member for communities, said:

“The redress scheme is designed to weed out bad agents and drive up standards. It’s another tool we can use to crack down on those in the privately rented sector who operate outside the rules.

“If you are a letting agent or property manager in Leeds please ensure you join one of the schemes. Our housing regulation team will be checking those who need to sign up have done so.

“Anyone who tries to avoid mandatory membership will face the consequences of a significant financial penalty.”

For more information on registration, letting agents and property managers can speak to the housing regulation team on 0113 247 7594 or search for ‘property redress scheme’ at http://www.leeds.gov.uk.

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9 thoughts on “Safeguarding Tenants

  1. Although the RTB Scheme was introduced by Margaret Thatcher, the Labour Administration under the watch of Tony Blair had ample opportunity to reverse the scheme. It is true to say that house building for affordable homes has dropped dramatically under both the Labour Party & the current Conservative Government.

    As for the extending of the RTB to Housing Associations. It will be interesting to see whether or not they operate the same discount system as they did for LA rented properties. It will take some considerable period of time to amend the Housing Act, and there maybe some issues around where tenants have lived in both LA & HA properties in the past, as to whether or not the full period will be used to determine a discount. If it is agreed to include both i am sure those who bought their home in the past may request a judicial review, for there maybe some who lost a period of discount.

    The payment of Housing Benefit is not made directly to the landlord, as you are fully aware this system changed under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. Apart from social housing tenants under either LA or HA management, all private rented tenants are paid direct, and it is down to the tenant to pay their landlord. It is only in cases of vulnerability, or where the tenant falls into rent arrears can the landlord apply for direct payments.

    With regard to selective licensing. These schemes have been in operation throughout England & Wales for quite some considerable period of time. What the Conservative Government is proposing is an extension of this scheme. Which on the whole will not be bad thing for private rented tenants.

    The future of social housing is clearly PFI under this Government, and i feel would have been the same had the Labour Party won back in May.

    1. I’m not entirely sure how the point regarding direct payment is relevant. Whether the money is paid directly to the landlord or via the tenant to the landlord it is still going to saud landlord. The last Labour government did not do enough to reverse the scheme or replenish the social housing, granted, but this scheme is born from Conservative ideology and has taken on a new lease if life since the reinvigoration of 2012. The future odlf social housing may well be pfi, and that may have been the case if the result had gone differently in may – we’ll never know, but I fear that under this government there will be minimal, if any, social housing built to replenish stocks.

      1. Payments have always gone directly to a landlord for private rented accommodation. I am unsure what other method you are trying to support?

        Your parting statement sounds more like sour grapes. How many years were the last Labour Government in power? How many Council homes did they build in that time? All parties talk a damn good game when it comes to election promises. In reality they do bugger all. Labour at the last election proposed 3 year tenancy agreements for private rented accommodation. Who came up with that bright idea we may never know. Were Labour hoping that all those people sitting on housing waiting lists were suddenly going to shift into the private rented sector. Maybe because Labour had no real vision as to a new build housing programme. You only have to look at the way the Labour Administration in Leeds calls on the Private Rented Sector to deal with homeless families that approach them now. As for downsizing where are the incentives? It would cost a person somewhere in the region of between £500 – £2,000 to move from a 3 bedroom property to a 1/2 bedroom property. What do LCC offer as an incentive. That people wanting to downsize will get a higher priority when they bid. Wow……… No wonder the number taking up this option is minimal.

      2. I think you are arguing against a stance you’ve made up rather than the point I was making. The point is that when housing benefit is being paid to a tenant in social housing the money goes back into the LA as that’s who the rent is paid to. If housing benefit is paid to someone in private rented accommodation that money leaves the authority and enters the pocket of the landlord as that’s who rent is paid to. The method of payment is irrelevant and I was not trying to support or put down any method.

        LCC have been fighting massive cuts first from the coalition now from the Tories and don’t have the funds to fix the social housing issues we face. Incentives to downsize where appropriate may be of benefit.

      3. Payment to private landlords has been going on for hundreds of years. Why has it suddenly become an issue? If i thought we were heading back to the days of Rackman then i would be out on the streets protesting. I have always advocated the expansion of the ‘selective licencing’ scheme as it has proved to be successful in many areas in England & Wales. Why is was not introduced more is probably down to the lack of local authorities to administer and enforce such a scheme. There is a ‘selective licencing’ scheme already operating in Leeds, so it maybe worth asking LCC to provide some information on how successful it has been, and whether or not in their opinion it has benefited all parties.

        The continuous rhetoric around central Government cuts is a broken record.

        LCC have entered into two PFI schemes in Little London, and Beeston. We have to face reality that this type of partnership ‘new build’ programme is the future. I personally don’t agree with PFI, as the local authority is tied into 20-30 year contracts. It is risky if the PFI company goes into receivership, and the money paid by any local authority considerably outweighs the cost had the local authority built it themselves. You may argue that this shows central Government cuts, but it doesn’t change the situation, as had Labour won the last election they too would be continuing the austerity packages, even if it was at a slower pace.

      4. It hasn’t “suddenly become an issue” it’s always been an issue and wil become more of an issue as our social housing stock depletes further. And it is because of central government cuts, as you say. It’s also dangerous to assert what would have been. We do know that the following were in the Labour Manifesto:

        “We will make sure that at
        least 200,000 new homes a year are built by 2020, and that private renters get
        a fairer deal.”

        “We will allow
        local authorities that negotiate rent reductions on behalf of tenants who are
        claiming housing benefit, to retain some of the savings, on the condition that
        the money is invested in building homes.”

      5. I made the assumptions based on previous Labour manifesto pledges, which also fell on stoney ground.

        1997 – We also support effective schemes to deploy private finance to improve public housing stock and to introduce greater diversity and choice.

        2005 – We have reformed housing and planning legislation to ensure that councils plan for the needs of genuine Gypsies and travellers.

        A decent home is crucial to family well-being. Homeownership has increased by over one million with Labour and by the end of our third term we aim for it to have risen by another million to two million.

        For too long, tenants have had little say over where they live. In a third term, Labour will offer greater flexibility and choice for those who rent. We will increase the annual supply of new social homes by 50 per cent by 2008, an extra 10,000 homes a year, and give local authorities the ability to start building homes again and bring empty homes back into use. And we will end the ‘take it or leave it’ approach to social renting by expanding choice-based lettings nationwide.

        As you can see Labour are not adverse to PFI which stems back to Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997. Much of which continued in the next ten or so years in the building of schools, hospitals etc.,

        We are still waiting for many authorities throughout England & Wales to build appropriate Gyspy & Traveller sites. That Labour were proud of home ownership, and made no mention of repealing the Right to Buy, which i would suggest made up a good portion of the increase in property sales. As for the new build programme of 10,000 new homes per year, i think that finished up being some magical figured plucked from thin air. So please accept my scepticism when you refer to the last Labour manifesto.

        It is the very fact that the Labour Party are not radical enough that means they are heading for the centre right of politics, and with it they will probably remain in the wilderness for another ten years.

      6. You are certainly inferring a lot from not many facts here Alan. You seem to know the direction the party is heading but the rest of us don’t yet know who will be leading the party come September. Whoever that is will have a very strong say in the future direction and they look set to choose different directions, some quite radically different. You are entitled to your scepticism, I don’t share it. There were a great many people who believed in those pledges and I fully believe they would have been met had a majority been won. The labour party of 2015 was a very different beast to that of the Blair years, and I don’t think it’s fair to impose your view of Blair onto those who were running this year.

        Where will the party be come 2020? That very much depends on the outcome of the leadership election. If you have such strong views perhaps you should rejoin, or register as a supporter, and make sure you have a say.

      7. I will make this my last post, as the thread has dried up.

        My scepticism was well founded as all three party manifestos from 1997-2005 failed in relation to ‘new build’ and were locked into mantra of PFI. Even though the issue of ‘new build’ is not unique to the Labour Party, as previous Conservative Governments had failed to reach their targets. I was hoping that i would see a Labour Party willing to be more radical and introduce a programme of house building linked in with apprenticeships on the scale not seen since the end of WW2. Alas all i saw was pledges that did not inspire me and many others, and as a result the electorate put their ‘x’ against the tory, liberal democrat, ukip or green candidate. I fear without strong leadership this party will head towards a wilderness not seen since biblical times when Moses took the Jewish people to the promise land.

        I may rejoin in early July.

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