Off the Fence with Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock

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If you get a live electric shock from your shower, as a tenant you might expect your landlord to repair it.

But The Guardian reported recently that one tenant who was getting shocks from live electrics in their bathroom was evicted from their home instead.

Increasingly private tenants who report such faults are finding that they are subject to such ‘revenge evictions’.

On Friday I supported a Bill in Parliament to ban revenge evictions.

Unfortunately it was what is known as ‘talked out’ by two Conservative MPs and is therefore unlikely to become law in this Parliament.

The housing charity Shelter reports that 213,000 people were subjected to revenge evictions in 2013. And research shows that 1 in 3 of privately rented properties have severe ‘category 1’ health and safety hazards.

Meanwhile finding a new property to rent if you are turfed out of one by your landlord now often means having to pay large fees to letting agents.

So it is not surprising that tenants are increasingly reluctant to report faults that may be putting their and their families’ health and lives at risk.

The vast majority of landlords are responsible, but we need now to tip the balance back slightly to tenants and against unscrupulous landlords while maintaining safeguards for responsible ones.

So I hope that Parliament will look again urgently at this, especially as it may be possible to introduce such measures in other Bills that are going through Parliament such as the Consumer Rights Bill (and I will be pushing for that).

More widely, I think we also need to look urgently at the general housing market in this country.

With a small one-bedroom flat in Portsmouth costing on average more than £100,000, even with the help of government schemes, buying a property is now beyond many people’s means.

Millions of council properties across the country have been sold off under the Right to Buy, with local authorities often being prohibited from re-investing the money in building new ones.

And renting has become expensive with tenants spending 40% of their income on average on rent.

To make rents affordable £35bn in housing benefit goes to private landlords, effectively paying off their mortgages.

As a society I believe we need to wrestle with this problem of better housing solutions, as increasingly it is benefitting nobody.