Come now, John-Boy….

As dawn broke earlier this week over another bank holiday morning-if we are not careful, we will soon have another four-I awoke to Sky News reporting how the Shadow Housing Minister and MP for Wentworth and Dean, the Rt Hon John Healey MP was detailing how the next Labour government would bring about a consumer rights revolution in the private rental market. Actually, ‘detailing’ is something of an exaggeration; to use a phrase from my days in fatigues, it was rather, ‘big hand, small map’ in its narration. But as events subsequent proved, Jezza’s lot aren’t that big on detail; isn’t that right Diane? The general gist was that those in the red corner would help/assist all private rental tenants in the battle against impious, usurious landlords. Quite tight too, and not dissimilar to the pledge on private rentals and landlords made by those sitting in the blue corner not so long ago…

In a piece published in the The Huffington Post on the same day, John-Boy wrote how. “the next Labour government would call time on bad landlords”, introducing “clear, enforceable minimum standards, so that no renter has to suffer problems like unsafe wiring or appliances, problem damp and serious vermin infestations”.  As has been stated several time in our blogs, all rental properties should reach a minimum standard. That is a given. But it in’t a one-way street. What about protection for landlords who have tenants who fail to reach a minimum standard in their behaviour towards the property that they are renting? Trashing the place, Colombia-on-Severn and my particular favourite; having the heating on full blast, with all windows closed and a house full of washing, then three weeks later calling Environmental Heath to complain that their house is full of damp? Believe me Mr Healey, these type of tenants have plenty of protection under the law. If doubting this, please join me the next time that I go to court for a possession hearing under a Section 21 or Section 8 and watch the platoon of lawyers who are there to protect the rights of the tenant; invariably provided by a charity that is being funded by us, the tax-paying members of society.

To the theme tune of Citizen Smith, John-Boy announced that Labour would “empower tenants to take matters into their own hands with new consumer rights” (as a side-note, I almost felt empowered to go and buy a Che Guevara T-shirt, but then I played safe and went for the Turnbull and Asser number). The need for empowerment is because private tenants have less consumer rights than those who have bought a fridge-freezer. And there is the nub of the problem; people who have bought i.e. paid for something with hard cash, thereby under law making them the owner. Check your contract law John-Boy, particularly the paragraph with the heading ‘consideration’. The reason that I point this out is because a tenant signs a contract to say that they will pay a specified amount of rent per month to enable them to remain living in the property that they do not own. If they fail to make payment on the designated date, are their consumer rights diminished? No, they are able to continue living in accommodation that they have knowingly and deliberately not paid for. Try that in The Celtic Manor next time. Who then protects the landlord?Undoubtedly there are rogue landlords out there, just as there are career rent-dodgers and house wreckers. Of course there should be a minimum set of standards that all landlords have to meet. Equally, there should be strict measures introduced to counter the behaviour of tenants who willfully break the terms of their contract.