Kingston MP James Berry defends voting down ‘decent housing’ proposals while letting property

James Berry and two other South London MPs have voted against Labour’s amendment for decent housing while collecting over £10,000 a month each in rent.

It would have ‘implied term of fitness for human habitation in residential lettings,’ forcing landlords to ensure that their properties are fit to live in when let and during the course of the tenancy.

“I voted against new clause 52 because local authorities actually already have powers to tackle landlords who rent out uninhabitable properties,” said Mr Berry. “About 40% on my constituency casework relates to housing.”

Yet according to the ‘Register of Members’ Interests’ James Berry, Jane Ellison and Tania Mathias MP all own property worth over £100,000, some of which they let out, while Dr Mathias is even a director at Oxford real estate company ‘Oak Circle Ltd’.

The optometrist, a new MP who defeated Vince Cable in the 2015 election, declared in the members’ register a studio flat in Oxford, the city where she attended university.

As a councillor last year she opposed residential development of 12.8-acre Teddington sports ground despite the need for affordable homes in the capital.

Meanwhile James Berry, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, joint owns a London house with his wife of one year.

He said: “Where a constituent is living in a property that is uninhabitable eg because of damp or mould, I refer it to the council straightway and the council usually takes action.

“This Bill includes a number of measures to protect tenants which include banning orders for the worst landlords and letting agents and significantly increasing councils’ powers to fine landlords.”

Mr Berry opposed the amendment but said he supported a new committee set up by the government to consider a register of landlords that would deter bad practice and make them identifiable to potential tenants.

Despite his property assets he told South West Londoner that “I understand the difficulties for young people – even with well paid professional jobs – getting on the housing ladder.”

The register also shows that Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, owns two flats in London. Along with her own property she was formerly a housing association board member for many years.

She was not available for comment, however a spokesperson quoted the response of local government minister Marcus Jones MP, who said that local authorities already have effective powers to deal with poor quality accommodation.

There was also a divide between the mayoral candidates over the amendment. Zac Goldsmith abstained while Sadiq Khan voted for.

Neither are residential landlords, however Mr Khan rents out a golf course in County Antrim while Mr Goldsmith’s family own land in Andalucia, Spain.

The Housing and Planning Bill is also set to remove the right of council tenants to lifetime tenure, a change that could have a major impact in South West London. The change was tabled in a government amendment last month.

“This is about ensuring we make the best use of our social housing, and that tenancies change as needs change,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Local Government. “We want to support households to make the transition into home ownership where they can.”

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