Politicians seek answers as ‘at least one’ States Member guilty of overcharging tenant

THE Housing Minister and one of his predecessors have expressed concern following revelations that at least one current States Member was among a group of landlords found to have overcharged tenants for electricity.

Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30447069)
Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30447069)

A Freedom of Information response has revealed that Environmental Health officers had found that some landlords were overcharging for electricity delivered through a metered supply.

The response to a further question asking whether any of those found to be overcharging were serving States Members says simply ‘yes’. It does not make clear how many Members were involved, with a later note adding that it was not possible to say how many instances of overcharging had been found in total because of the time it would take to manually search records.

The issue of legislation to protect tenants and regulate the sector against a minority of unscrupulous landlords has been a contentious one in recent years.

Last September Environment Minister John Young’s proposals for a Landlords Licensing Scheme were defeated by 24 votes to 21 in the States, sparking fury from the body representing tenants.

Reform Party leader and housing spokesman Senator Sam Mézec said the need for effective regulation and licensing remained strong in order to protect tenants from ‘unjustifiable and exploitative practices’.

Senator Sam Mézec. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30445848)

‘The fact that this includes States Members who are landlords and should know better is deeply concerning,’ he said. ‘I will be asking questions of the Attorney General in the States Assembly on why there have been no criminal prosecutions brought forward for these offences.

‘When I served as Minister for Housing I was aware of multiple cases in which landlords were in breach of the Residential Tenancy Law, but no prosecutions were pursued. I have absolutely no doubt that a landlord licensing scheme is necessary to prevent some of these breaches and ensure tenants’ rights are being upheld.’

Deputy Russell Labey, who took on the role of Housing Minister last month following Senator Mézec’s resignation, said the information underlined the need for regulation of the sector.

Royal Square. States members leaving the States Chambers. Russell Labey, deputy St. Helier No. 1 Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30445872)

Asked about the revelation that a States Member, or Members, had been involved, Deputy Labey described the situation as ‘regrettable’ and pointed out that it was possible for any Islander to make complaints to the Commissioner for Standards.

‘It is often the most vulnerable members of our community who have to pay for their electricity via their landlord because of the nature of the property,’ he said.

‘I have asked officers to identify areas where the Residential Tenancy Law could be updated to further enhance the protection afforded to tenants.’

Prior to the debate last year, 20 States Members declared interests as landlords.

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