The Parliamentary expenses body, IPSA, published expenses for the end of 2013 last month so we thought we’d see how many MPs are experiencing the private rented sector and charging the costs back to the taxpayer.
MPs representing constituencies outside London get £20,100 per year to rent a second home in London if they wish. 335 of them make a claim for rent, though not everyone uses the maximum amount – the sum that is supposed to cover utility bills too, and a number rent a property in their constituency.
This generous allowance enables MPs to live in accommodation beyond the reach of ordinary people, and so it’s unsurprising that they fail to understand the high costs and poor conditions experienced by the country’s nine million private renters. Last month, a majority of MPs rejected measures to reduce costs for tenants when Parliament voted on banning letting agent fees.
Our analysis of the expenses data found:
- The taxpayer spent £5,263,312 on renting second homes for 335 MPs
- 254 MPs claimed rent expenses of more than £13,000 (£1083 a month), the maximum a single housing benefit claimant in Westminster is eligible to claim (and the highest in the country).
- 201 MPs claimed rent expenses of more than £15,600 (£1300 per month), the median rent in London across all households.
- 47 MPs claimed rent expenses of more than £20,100 (£1675 per month), the maximum allowed by IPSA, which is meant to also include utility bills
- Half of the MPs claimed rent expenses of more than £16,900 (£1408 per month) – enough for a 1-bed flat at the top of the market across the river in Lambeth or Wandsworth, and more than enough for a 3-bed in Newham or Harrow, both an easy commute away on the Jubilee line.
- The highest rent claim was for £27,141 (£2467 per month) by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr.
- 57 MPs sent taxpayers the bill for letting agent fees and paid an average of £200 for moving home and £97 for renewing their contract.
- Wrexham MP Ian Lucas claimed expenses of £482 to move home. While Lucas has subsequently voted to ban letting agent fees, 22 of the MPs who claimed them opposed a ban.
- 138 renting MPs voted against the ban on letting fees – 136 voted in favour.
Just living in a rented house doesn’t make an MP an expert on private renting. Because it’s not their money they have no idea what it’s really like to see half your income eaten up by rent, or scrimp together the fees involved in moving home. And because the allowance is so generous, they can afford the type of accommodation most private renters can only dream about.
We don’t object to the second home allowance, but if MPs realised how privileged they are compared to other private renters, they might finally take some action to improve a housing system that is failing millions.