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Written Statements

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Communities and Local Government

Private Rented Sector

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): The private rented market is a vital asset to this country. It is an important option for the millions of people who prefer the flexibility that renting offers, or who are simply saving up for a deposit so they can buy a place of their own. The coalition Government are delivering a series of policies to promote home ownership and affordable housing. But we recognise there is more to do to support a vibrant private rented sector.

I am therefore today announcing a package of further measures to help millions of hard-working tenants get a better deal when they rent a home. These measures will give tenants the know-how to demand longer-term tenancies, stable rents, better quality accommodation, avoid hidden fees when renting a home and demand better standards.

Equally, we recognise the need for proportionate regulation. Excessive red tape—such as compulsory landlord registration fees or rent controls—would reduce investment, restrict choice for tenants and ultimately drive up costs for tenants.

We also recognise the need to support the vast majority of law-abiding, decent landlords in managing their properties and ensure they are protected when tenants intentionally do not pay rent or damage their property. At the same time, action should be taken against the small number of rogue landlords to stop tenants being ripped off when they rent a flat or house and ensure tenants have the confidence to take action without fear of eviction or harassment.

Ensuring high-quality accommodation

I have set out today that we will develop a code of practice on the management of property, in the private rented sector. This code of practice will set out what landlords, letting agents and property managers should do when providing tenants with homes to live in. It will make clear that it is their responsibility to maintain the property to an acceptable standard to prevent tenants having to pay for repairs out of their own pockets.

Tenants have a right to live in homes that are safe and well maintained. We will undertake a review into how we can ensure tenants are satisfied that their homes are safe and healthy and what standards of hygiene and sanitation they can expect and how they will be protected from damp or excess cold. We will consider the scope for requiring landlords to repay rent where a property is found to have serious hazards. This will include considering extending local authorities’ ability to recoup housing benefit through rent repayment orders, so that taxpayers’ money is not used to support landlords who provide sub-standard property.

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Protecting tenants from rogue landlords

Tenants must feel able to raise concerns or complaints with their landlords about the homes that they live in, and they must be able to do this without fear of eviction.

We will also work with local councils to share best practice on the prosecution of landlords for housing offences. This will make clear the importance that local authorities demonstrate that such offences have a real impact on the lives of tenants.

Cutting costs for tenants

A Tenants’ Charter, published today in draft, will tell tenants what their rights are, what to expect and what to ask for and what to do if they have any problems. This will explain the flexibility which exists to enable tenants to ask for longer tenancies and promote awareness among tenants of what to expect, including on the transparency of lettings agents’ fees. Greater transparency will help stop unreasonable practices and unfair charges by letting agents, and would-be tenants will know the full costs before they sign up to any contract.

We will also develop a model tenancy agreement, by early 2014, which will simply and more clearly set out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords alike and help tenants to understand which clauses should be in every agreement, which are optional but standard and which are unique to that property. We have already directly encouraged those bidding in the second round of the Build to Rent fund to support longer-term tenancies.

We will shortly lay before Parliament the secondary legislation setting out the conditions compulsory redress schemes must meet. All letting and management agents will be required to belong to such a scheme. This will ensure that complaints about their service can be investigated by an independent person. A complaint could be made where the agent had not made clear what fees would be charged and, where a complaint was upheld, the redress scheme could require the agent to pay compensation to the tenant.

Supporting good landlords

We know that the majority of landlords in the private rented sector are good landlords who have excellent relationships with their tenants and who maintain their properties. We want to ensure that all tenants have this same level of service and the same standard of property. We also know that there are some bad tenants out there; we will work with landlords to identify any improvements that can be made to the eviction process, so that the law-abiding landlords have confidence that they can get their property back if a tenant stops paying the rent and which will provide them with more confidence to offer longer tenancies.

We recognise that many buy-to-let landlords will be prevented from offering longer tenancies because of restrictions in their mortgage. We will be holding a mortgage lenders summit to identify the barriers to lenders agreeing to longer tenancies and consider how lenders can make it easier for landlords to offer longer tenancies that benefit families.

Increasing the supply of rented housing

Increasing the supply of housing will provide more choice for tenants and more competition between landlords, which will in turn deliver longer tenancies, stable rents, more professional landlords and better properties for people to live in.

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This is why we have introduced the £1 billion Build to Rent fund, and we are offering up to £10 billion in housing guarantees, to bring more developers into the market, and build homes specifically for private rent. These will be high-quality developments that will drive up standards in all areas of the sector. To ensure delivery, quality and affordability, we have appointed a specialist private rented sector taskforce precisely to promote these two schemes to the wider industry. We are also encouraging local authorities to promote purpose-built rental schemes on their land holdings and via the planning system.

We are supporting hard-working tenants while ensuring that good landlords are not penalised by the introduction of unnecessary red tape and rooting out the rogue landlords and letting agents that all too often give the sector a bad name.

I would like to thank the my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) for his assistance on this policy development in his capacity as a member of the No. 10 policy board.

Copies of the associated documents are being placed in the Library. My Department is also publishing today the Government’s formal response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s report on “The Private Rented Sector”.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 21 October, and I will attend the General Affairs Council (GAC) on 22 October. The FAC will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, and the GAC will be chaired by the Lithuanian presidency. The meetings will be held in Luxembourg.

Introduction—middle east peace process

Baroness Ashton will outline progress on the middle east peace process, including on the EU settlement guidelines. We do not expect discussion, but if it ensues we will reaffirm our support for the negotiation process, our continued support for the economic track and our position on the EU settlement guidelines, as necessary.


Baroness Ashton is expected to report back to the Foreign Affairs Council on the E3+3 talks with Iran taking place 15-16 October in Geneva. No discussion is expected.


Baroness Ashton is likely to update Ministers on the EU-facilitated Serbia/Kosovo dialogue. We welcome Baroness Ashton’s leadership on this and welcome the progress made, including on agreements on energy and telecoms. Implementation of dialogue agreements by both sides needs to continue and there is more to do more on integration of police and justice structures in north Kosovo. The smooth passage of municipal elections in Kosovo in November will be important.

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We expect Baroness Ashton to raise Africa during her introductory remarks, focusing on: Kenya, including the recent terrorist attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi; Somalia, highlighting the importance of maintaining the support to AMISOM in the fight against al-Shabaab; and the Central African Republic where Ministers will agree Council conclusions that highlight the continuing poor security and humanitarian situation.

Introduction—EU-China summit

Baroness Ashton will provide an update on preparations for upcoming high-level meetings, including the EU-China summit, which is scheduled for 21-22 November. “Green growth in a safer world” is the overall headline, with prosperity, security and sustainable development as supporting themes. We do not expect a discussion.

Eastern Partnership

The Eastern Partnership discussion will focus on the preparations for the Vilnius summit and Ukraine’s progress against the December 2012 FAC conclusions. The UK is a firm supporter of Ukraine’s EU aspirations, and has made clear that progress towards a closer relationship with the EU requires Ukraine to demonstrate its commitment to EU principles including the rule of law. Ukraine is an important EU neighbour and a closer relationship between Ukraine and the EU will benefit both parties economically and in terms of European security. Ministers may also discuss how the EU should respond to recent Russian pressure on eastern partners in advance of the Vilnius summit. The UK is clear that a closer relationship with the EU will bring clear benefits to eastern partners, through improved trade opportunities, business environment, and rule of law, and that this is in Russia’s long-term interests as well as the EU’s.

Southern neighbourhood

On Syria, we will continue to encourage convening of the Geneva II talks for a political settlement in Syria by mid-November, including by supporting the moderate opposition. We will encourage the EU to contribute additional funding for humanitarian aid and the mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons programme. We will encourage member states to do all they can to support September’s UN Security Council resolution on destroying Syria’s chemical weapons programme and presidential statement on increased humanitarian access in Syria.

On Egypt, Baroness Ashton will brief Ministers on her visit to Cairo in early October where she met with a wide range of interlocutors. Ministers will also discuss the EU’s internal review of assistance to Egypt. The UK remains committed to supporting Egypt in its political transition, and to supporting the strengthening of democratic institutions. There will be conclusions on Egypt.


There will be a short discussion of Burma at the FAC, before Foreign Ministers join Aung San Suu Kyi for lunch, who is visiting Luxembourg and the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The lunch with Aung San Suu Kyi will be an opportunity to hear her views on the reform process in Burma and discuss her priorities as we move closer to national elections in 2015.

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General Affairs Council

The 22 October GAC will focus on the preparation for the 24-25 October European Council, the next stage of the European semester, macro-regional strategies and possibly enlargement.

Preparation of the 24-25 October European Council

The GAC will prepare the 24-25 October European Council. This European Council has an extensive agenda covering: the digital economy, innovation and services; growth, competitiveness and jobs; economic and monetary union; the Eastern Partnership summit; and migration issues, following the tragedy in Lampedusa.

It is very positive that the October European Council has such a strong focus on areas that have the potential to promote growth. We have consistently pressed for action to deliver on many of the areas that will be discussed at this European Council.

I will be arguing for the need for the European Council to prioritise areas where it could go further, such as on the services sector where we would like to see more ambition in the proposals; completing the digital single market by 2015; and continuing the Prime Minister’s drive for the EU to reduce burdensome regulation for business. However I will also be arguing the need to get the details right on issues such as telecoms, where there are complex proposals.

European semester

The GAC will also discuss the European semester, which gives macro-economic and fiscal guidance to member states, assessing implementation of the compact for growth and jobs agreed by the June 2012 European

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Council. This particular discussion will focus on the lessons learned in 2013 in preparation for the European semester in 2014.


Though not yet finally confirmed the GAC may discuss Turkish accession, particularly regarding the formal opening of “Chapter 22—Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments” at an inter- governmental conference this autumn.

Macro-regional strategies

There are two main macro-regional strategies currently in existence, the Baltic sea strategy and the Danube strategy. There are proposals for other strategies including for the Adriatic-Ionian region. These macro-regional strategies are comprehensive frameworks for member state co-operation that have covered a wide range of policy areas from maritime issues to the cross-border delivery of structural and cohesion funded projects and are generally endorsed by the European Council.

The draft conclusions on macro-regional strategies reiterate that they should require no new money (though structural and cohesion funds already allocated to those regions can be channelled towards projects complementing the macro-regional strategies); no new institutions and no new legislation. The conclusions do not propose establishing any new macro-regional strategies but set out preconditions that would help make such strategies effective.

The discussion at the GAC will look at how the existing macro-regional strategies are adding value and lessons learnt from them and the alpine strategy has been added to the agenda as an “AOB” item.