A ban on fees for letting agents has been hailed by housing minister Gavin Barwell as an ‘important step’ after rejecting the idea only three months earlier.

In last a recent debate on homelessness, he said: “In terms of dealing with statutory homelessness, access to the private rented sector is key.

“That is why the chancellor’s announcement is an important step.”

But on September 19 he warned: “Landlords would pass costs to tenants via rent. We’re looking at other ways to cut upfront costs and raise standards.”

Last week’s debate was moved by shadow secretary of state for housing John Healey, who said over 120,000 children would spend Christmas Day in temporary accommodation, with eviction or default from a private tenancy now the ‘biggest single cause of homelessness.’

Conservative MP Will Quince slammed a system in which people who sought help from the council ‘when they got in trouble’ were told to come back ‘when the bailiffs are knocking at your door.’

He said: “At this point the person has arrears and a county court judgement against their name, and will never again be able to rent in the private sector.”

He said the system was ‘failing those individuals, and it has to stop.’

Former shadow housing minister Jack Dromey described a ‘rapidly growing private rented sector’ which was typified by ‘soaring rents.’

Landlords have complained that it is unfair to penalise the vast majority of decent BTL-investors, who provide secure and good quality homes, for the actions of a minority of rogue landlords and ‘dodgy’ agents who exploit vulnerable tenants.

One criticism has been the continuing failure of government to address a chronic housing shortage in the UK, which is at the root of the country’s escalating homelessness problem.

In the debate, on December 14, Mr Barwell admitted: “We have not built enough homes in this country for 30 or 40 years, and all the Governments covering the period share responsibility for that.

“We need more homes for people to buy, more homes for private rent, more affordable homes at sub-market rents and more shared ownership homes. We need more homes of every single kind.”