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It’s 2013 – a new dawn; a new year.
Same old Tories, though.
Look at this: Newham Council in London has started a compulsory system of landlord registration. Owners of privately-rented homes must now declare criminal convictions and will be monitored to ensure they meet health and safety standards on their properties. If they don’t, they could be fined up to £20,000.
This is terrific – it is, after all, landlords’ responsibility to make sure their properties are clean and in good working order. Scotland already has a compulsory licensing system and Wales is working on one.
But in England, ministers oppose a national scheme.
Scotland is run by the SNP; Wales by Labour. England is ruled by the Coalition government – the Tories, in essence.
From this, we can deduce that Tories want landlords to continue charging substantial rents for people to live in unacceptable accommodation.
We can also deduce that they have no problem with landlords getting rich while tenants live in slums, paying hundreds of pounds every month to live in a single, basic room.
Perhaps the threats posed by faulty wiring or dangerous gas appliances, pest infestations and overcrowding do not mean anything to the Tories. But then, they’ve never experienced those things, have they?
Let’s also bear in mind that, when considering how to remedy what they say is an ever-increasing housing benefit bill, the Tories chose to find ways to cut the benefit: the bedroom tax, the benefits cap (housing benefit is the first to be affected if households are earning more than £500 per week).
Responsibility for making up the lost benefit will fall on tenants, who must find it in what little of their income is not tied up with other bills.
My brother once told me they’d have us back to Rackmanism and rack-renting if they thought they could get away with it. Isn’t that what’s happening?
The Tories chose not to cap rents instead, with supporters of the move saying this would distort the market and would therefore be unnecessary interference.
What are we to make, then, of the fact that other English councils are free to devise their own landlord registration systems, which may differ from that in Newham or those in Scotland and Wales, leading to a piecemeal system with excessive bureaucracy and – yes – distorting the market?
As ever, when we are ruled by those who have known only luxury and cannot understand what it is to survive in poverty and squalor, we get what we’ve always had: