Labour has appointed a new shadow housing minister with a strong opposition to estate agents, although it may actually be lettings firms that he is not keen on.
Alex Cunningham, who has been MP for Stockton North since 2010, has joined Labour’s housing team.
He will work alongside fellow shadow housing minister Sarah Jones and housing team parliamentary private secretary James Frith.
John Healey remains in the more senior role, as shadow housing secretary.
Cunningham has a history of criticising the sector, albeit by conflating estate and lettings agency work.
Following the Queen’s Speech in May 2013 he criticised the Government for failing to bring “greater regulation to bear on estate agents who routinely rip off those in the private rented sector”.
He has also been vocal on fees and deposits.
In July 2017, during Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “My young constituent paid a £300 house-reservation fee to Pattinson estate agents, but the agents will not refund it after their landlord client withdrew from the contract because my constituent refused to pay 12 months’ rent in advance.
“She faces having to pay another agent non-refundable fees of £650 to secure a different property. When will the Prime Minister act to put an end to these rip-off fees and stop these agents capitalising on young people and others?”
During votes on the Housing and Planning Bill in 2016, he voted to retain secure tenancies for life but against requiring those on high incomes living in social housing to pay market rents.
Cunningham also opposed funding Right to Buy style discounts for housing association tenants and voted against requiring local councils to sell expensive properties to use the revenue to fund new housing.
More recently, he submitted a question to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government asking what steps are being taken to enable more local authorities to establish selective licensing schemes.
It comes as Labour has proposed setting a house price inflation target for the Bank of England.
Healey suggested the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee could use its powers to limit price growth such as by restricting mortgage availability.