New rules to stop evictions when people have no place to move to should protect renters and stop landlords taking advantage of tenants, a former housing minister has said.
Mr May was grilled for 15 minutes on his plans to introduce tougher rules on the way tenants are evicted by landlord heads in local authority estates.
But he refused to expand on the details of the new policies – which will include forcing council tenants to receive contracts worth a maximum of £500 towards an end of tenancy period of up to seven years.
There have been widespread reports of tenants being forced from their homes by housing management firms as tenants try to move elsewhere.
Last night Mr May warned that households who do not use up their maximum 30 days on a London estate every month in a voluntary arrangement to move away from it are sometimes on the back foot as they have little choice.
He said: “The Local Government Chronicle has rightly raised some issues, particularly around the issue of the timescales on eviction which are so draconian.
“Some councils have far more challenging budgets than others, and some people may have their rented properties lost or not be able to save up to spare any money, making it even more challenging to find an alternative.”
Mr May also addressed concerns that staff who receive payment towards a relocation can “tear up” the terms of the contract, potentially damaging negotiations for tenants.
He said: “We’ve not seen evidence of staff tearing up a contract unless forced to.
“And I think what we ought to be doing is to make clear, exactly how that should be handled, so that the person that makes the decision can see that the process is robust so that we cannot see staff tearing up a contract.”
Labour responded to the increasing number of evictions by calling for the reforms to be challenged.
Speaking exclusively to the Press Association, Alan Marshall, shadow London mayor and shadow minister for housing and planning, said Labour “very much believes” the proposals for council tenants could prove to be “unworkable” if they were given the “resources” needed.
“Labour has long campaigned against the eviction process and believes it should continue for the benefit of tenants, with no increase in fines, rather than forcing them to be evicted,” he said.
“It’s also illegal and unlawful to evict council tenants over the number of days on a London estate where some council tenants still have properties to move to.”
There are currently an estimated 12,500 cases each year in London where council tenants have been evicted – significantly more than there are council tenants in England.