Tenants could have access to a database of “rogue” landlords and letting agents, under a bill debated in the House of Lords on Friday.
The Renters’ Rights Bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat Baroness Grender, proposes to ban letting agents’ fees and publish a public list of criminal landlords.
It also proposes to ban “rogue” landlords from being able to own a house in multiple occupation (HMO), which is a property where more than two separate households share living space and facilities.
Campaign group Generation Rent gathered in support of the Renters’ Rights Bill, which had its second House of Lords reading on Friday.
Baroness Grender told The Debrief, an online magazine that has also been campaigning for renters’ rights, that the bill was intended to improve the quality of accommodation for renters and remove upfront fees.
“We think they’re prohibitive, they’re a rip-off, they’re an upfront fee which is really hard, especially when tenants are moving.
“People who rent have to move much more often than people who buy,” she said.
But Jeremy Leaf, former chairman of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, warned that a total ban on fees could lead to rents rising as costs are passed on to tenants anyway.
“The fees have got to come out in the wash somehow – you can’t expect someone to administer for nothing.
“I’d like to see caps on fees or more transparency on fees.
“But banning them altogether could mean the costs are passed on to tenants, who could end up paying even more than they do at present,” he said.
Mr Leaf also said that “rogue tenants” should also be named and shamed in a list to match the one for landlords.
“The very worst excesses are pretty obvious rogue landlord territory – but there’s also rogue tenant behaviour, such as being obstructive, or never being around for repairs.
“The list should be viewed in context, and there should be a health warning attached.
“A landlord could quickly be tarnished by bad publicity just through a dispute over one property – and then he can’t let out his other 20 flats.”
There are fears among experts that new taxes which reduce landlords’ ability to deduct their mortgage interest from their rental income before calculating their tax bill, which are being phased in from next year, could also hit renters hard.
But Betsy Dillner, director of Generation Rent, said that landlords who propose to put up rents are motivated by “greed”.
She said: “Landlords who are putting up rents are just excited that they can blame something other than their own greed.
“Speculation in the property market has pushed prices out of the reach of ordinary people, diverted capital away from productive parts of the economy, and stifled living standards – especially for those of us stuck paying expensive rents.
“Pulling the plug on landlord incentives is an essential step towards a stronger economy and a healthier housing market.”
The Renters’ Rights Bill passed its second reading and will now move to committee stage.