A SADDLEWORTH councillor has convinced the Oldham authority to back tougher regulations and examinations on private landlords after describing that sector as the ‘Wild West.’
Garth Harkness called for protections for private renters to be strengthened by issuing and enforcing improvement notices where conditions are unacceptable. This includes issues with excess cold as well as damp and mould.
He also called for an end to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions as well as for more support to be made available when residents make legal challenges against landlords.
According to the homelessness charity Crisis, the end of a private rented tenancy is now the leading cause of homelessness in England.
Several of Greater Manchester’s leading housing and homelessness charities came together to announce a new campaign declaring a ‘private renters’ emergency.’
And after Saddleworth North representative and the Liberal Democrat group’s spokesman for housing Cllr Harkness told how he believed something must be done, Oldham Council voted to back his call.
Now it has committed to serve improvement notices on homes with severe hazards to invalidate Section 21 notices and enable Rent Repayment Orders if the landlord fails to comply.
Among other actions, improvement notices for excess cold in homes that fail minimum energy efficiency standards could also be issued and action may be taken on overcrowded homes through licensing, increased inspections and a strategy for increasing the supply of homes for families and single adults.
Cllr Harkness said, “The private rented sector has become like the Wild West. I know of one family who have seen several rent increases in the last six months.
“Private renting is becoming increasingly unaffordable and insecure in Oldham.
“There aren’t enough regulations in place to crack down on cowboy landlords, poor quality living conditions and unfair evictions.”
News of the Labour-run council backing Cllr Harkness’ motion at its meeting on Wednesday, November 1 delighted Oldham’s Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Howard Sykes.
He said the outcome of the debate was, ‘welcome news for the increasing number of people across Oldham who rely on private rentals.’
He added: “This is an important first step in getting to grips with what has become an unsafe and insecure sector for tenants.
“If we’re going to wait for Westminster to step in, we’re going to be waiting a very long time.
“Conservative MPs recently said it was ‘un-conservative’ to try to reform the private rented sector.”
“Of course, that will have nothing to do with the fact that so many of them are landlords themselves.
“Wages are not keeping up with the rising cost of renting and this is already having devastating consequences for families in Oldham.
“Urgent changes in the law are needed to give private renters more protections from runaway rents and poor-quality housing. We also need to build more homes to rent!
“But it’s not just about pointing the finger at the Government.
“Here in Oldham, we need the council to act proactively, to support residents when they are living in substandard homes, and to crack down on landlords when they aren’t meeting basic requirements.”