Today, the House of Commons debated the Second Reading of a Private Member’s Bill that seeks to improve the regulation of exempt accommodation.
The Bill makes provision for local authorities to bring in a new licencing scheme which will mean providers will need a licence in order to operate exempt properties within the area.
It also makes provision for a national expert advisory panel, made up of representatives from across the sector, which could look at how to implement a system of national regulation.
During the debate, Shabana Mahmood MP for Birmingham Ladywood outlined her support for the bill but criticised the government for not acting faster, and pushed them on the significant amount of work still left to do, once the bill passes.
Shabana highlighted cases of abuse within her constituency, including one in which the biggest exempt provider in Birmingham, Reliance is punishing tenants for seeking help from their MP and calling out the lack of support they have been receiving, stating:
“It seems to me that Reliance think they are too big to fail, that they’ve got Birmingham City Council over a barrel and they can essentially hold us all to ransom and therefore get away with this utterly outrageous behaviour.”
Shabana also highlighted the need for better data collection of housing benefit within the exempt accommodation sector, following emergence of ghost tenancies, whereby housing benefit payments continue to be made for tenants that have already vacated the property, or never even lived there in the first place.
Speaking after the debate, Shabana Mahmood MP, said:
“Dodgy providers are cramming vulnerable tenants into badly run hostels and HMOs. The system is a complete money-spinner for cowboy landlords who are lining their pockets with housing benefit payments, while providing little to no “support” at all.
“A licencing scheme would be such an important tool for local authorities to hold providers to account and it will also operate as a strong disincentive for any other rogue providers looking to enter the sector for the wrong reasons.
“But, to stop at a local licencing scheme risks creating a postcode lottery of regulation as well as a whack-a-mole system, where unscrupulous providers simply relocate to areas with weaker or non-existent licencing schemes.
“Ultimately it is down to Government to bring in a national regulatory regime to stitch together the current patchwork of regulation, which allows serious evidence of malpractice to fall through the large gaps in the regulators’ remits.
“Overall, this Bill is a strong starting point, but I am struck by the number of times it states the Government ‘may’ instead of the Government ‘must’.
“It is high time for the Government to step up and take forward all the measures in the bill and swiftly publish the regulations for the licencing scheme as well as the minimum standards it has already committed to.”
- You can watch Shabana’s speech in full here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/c87fe1b0-5dab-4329-b842-1fc0aa852246?in=10:33:19