Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Inquiry Panel - How do we get a better deal for private sector renters in Southampton? - Thursday, 16th November, 2023 5.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Melanie Morley Democratic Services Officer 02380 832198 

Link: Link to Meeting

No. Item


Apologies and Changes in Membership (if any)

To note any changes in membership of the Panel made in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 4.3.



Apologies were received from Councillor Powell-Vaughan.


The Panel noted that a change of membership had been approved by Council and that Councillor Blackman replaced Councillor Wood on the Panel.


Election of Chair and Vice-Chair

To elect the Chair and Vice Chair for the Municipal Year 2023-2024.




(i)  Councillor Windle be elected as Chair for the Municipal Year 2023/2024; and

(ii)  Councillor Evemy be elected as Vice-Chair for the Municipal Year 2023/2024.


Inquiry Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 198 KB

Report of the Scrutiny Manager recommending that the Panel discuss, amend and approve a final version of the attached outline inquiry project plan, allowing for sufficient flexibility and the availability of suitable witnesses.

Additional documents:


Representations were received from Mark Pirnie, Scrutiny Manager, who was in attendance and with the consent of the Chair addressed the Panel.


Resolved: that the Inquiry Panel noted the Terms of Reference and approved the outline inquiry project plan as presented in the report of the Executive Director – Corporate Services.


Introduction, Context and Background pdf icon PDF 511 KB

Report of the Scrutiny Manager recommending that the Panel consider the comments made by the invited guests and use the information provided as evidence in the review.

Additional documents:


The Panel considered the report of  the Executive Director – Corporate Services detailing an introduction to the shape of the private rented sector I the City, the needs and concerns of renters, national legislation and policy and how the Council and its partners are seeking to manage and oversee the sector in the City.


The Panel received the following representations:


Conor O’Shea, Policy and Public Affairs Manager Generation Rent outlined the challenges experienced by private sector renters in the UK, the reasons these challenges exist and the opportunities to improve outcomes and summarised the key issues as:

·  20% of the UK population (13 million people) rent from a private landlord; 23% of families live in private rented homes; 41% of an average couple’s income is spent on private rental; 619,000 rental properties are estimated to fail safety standards.

·  Key challenge 1 – Availability of properties. There is increasing demand for rental properties as people return to cities after Covid. In many areas demand outstrips supply. Gazumping and bidding wars for rental properties have been witnessed.

·  Key challenge 2 – Affordability of rental properties. Rents at a peak cause unaffordability and the highest percentage of incomes spent on rent since records began. This is partly linked to lack of supply and the increasing number of long term rental properties becoming holiday lets.

·  Key challenge 3 – Standard of private rented sector accommodation. The energy efficiency of rented homes can be poor. One in four private renters are living in fuel poverty (1.19 million people), which is a higher rate than in social housing and owner-occupation.  Poorly insulated homes are costing tenants an average of £570 more for energy every year.  ECO Grants are not used by tenants for fear of eviction. The MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards) uplift to Energy Efficiency Level C was recently cancelled. HMO licensing exists in Southampton, and licensing could be extended.

·  Renters (Reform) Bill 2023 – Key legislation going through Parliament. More local authority enforcement powers are proposed under amendments in the Bill.  There are proposals to introduce open-ended tenancies and abolish Section 21 (no fault) evictions although implementation of that proposal has been delayed until courts are reformed. All landlords must register on the property portal. Homes in the private rented sector must meet the Decent Homes Standard.  Rent increases limited to once a year.

·  Solutions beyond the Bill:

o  Increase the supply of housing.

o  Consider advocating rent controls.

o  Deposit passporting (deposit moves home with you).

o  Licensing scheme for holiday lets.

o  Energy efficiency measures.

o  Effective local authority enforcement. Good local authority practice is predominantly associated with employing sufficient enforcement officers to proactively enforce legislation.


Phil Tyler and David Carr, Directors of Southampton Tenants Union advised the Panel that:


·  Southampton Tenants Union has been operating for a year and was formed to fight for better housing and to reduce the exploitation of tenants.

·  The key issues identified in the private renters survey reflected the issues impacting on private renters in Southampton  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.