RAMSEY Town Commissioners were critical of a government bill to introduce a register for landlords and enforce minimum standards of privately rented properties.
Members of the authority questioned the need for new legislation, though acknowledged the bill contained a number of good ideas.
The stated aim of the Department of Social Care’s Landlord and Tenant (Private Housing) Bill is to balance the rights of landlords and tenants in the private sector. It would require landlords to be registered, and along with letting agents comply with minimum standards set out by the DSC. Landlords who do not meet the minimum standards could be made to use a letting agent to manage their properties, and the legislation would empower the department to inspect properties and enforce standards.
Consideration could also be given to introducing of a fair rent system, or rent controls.
Commissioner Graham Jones said: ‘This is not the way to monitor housing, it’s yet another component of the inexorable time bomb toward total authoritarian control.’
He said that minister Chris Robertshaw had indicated it was only a tiny percentage of privately rented properties were thought to be sub-standard.
Mr Jones added: ‘It just sets up another tier of government. We need to give teeth to the existing legislation. I don’t applaud this document.
‘There are rules and regulations within the environmental health act. If they are not tough enough, then make them tougher.’
Lawrie Hooper agreed that telling good landlords they have to pay letting agents and registration fees could just end up driving rent prices up.
‘I agree with minimum standards,’ said Mr Hooper, ‘but this will just drive people out.’
However Dr Alex Allinson found some positives. ‘The reality is you are paying a premium price for a flat in Ramsey, you can pay £900 in today’s market. Some kind of rent control in the future can be an aspiration. If left to the market (to determine prices), we will have homeless people on the streets.
‘We debate long and hard about our own housing, yet there is a great disparity in the private sector. Most are properties of quite good standard, but you do get some that aren’t, with unscrupulous landlords and people should be protected from that.’
He added: ‘The one problem I have is another tier of government. It would create two extra jobs in government. Why don’t they allow the current people in stock to do the job? There are people who already inspect homes for a living.’