Monday saw a keynote speeches on planning and housing from the Prime Minister, Theresa May, while Housing and Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid also made a statement in the House of Commons.
Although the thrust of both was about changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, they also made mention of private renting. Mr Javid highlighted the Government’s commitment to longer and family friendly tenancies, but was challenged about the growth of HMOs and ‘rogue’ landlords ‘milking’ the benefits system, by Labour MP, Clive Efford.
The Prime Minister had rather more to say. She spoke of the anger of young people ‘when they’re forced to hand more and more of their wages to a landlord to whom their home is simply a business asset.’ While the Prime Minister also said that private landlords played an important role in the housing market, it is very clear that the Conservatives will be appealing further to private sector tenants. Tenants ‘paying more and more for less and less’, ‘being hit with rip-off fees’, ‘facing huge up-front bills’, ‘being uprooted every six months’, landlords ‘flouting rules that protect tenants’ rights and safety’ and ‘no regulation in property management’ are just a few phrases lifted directly from her speech, but could have come direct from a Generation Rent media release. Read the speech in full here.
It’s not hard to see why the Conservatives are so keen to become the champions of private tenants. Analysis of data from the British Election Survey from the 2017 General Election shows a massive rise in Labour’s vote from tenants in the PRS. The Conservatives don’t just need to stop this to have any chance of holding on to power at the next election – they need to reverse it. So landlords can expect a great deal more tub-thumping and window-dressing policies, when it comes to regulation of private renting over the next few years.
Meanwhile, research from RLA PEARL showed that the Government’s taxation polices are driving out investment in the PRS. Many may welcome this, believing it will increase availability of property for families and first-time buyers, but the reality is that, unless there is a dramatic uplift in earnings or a house price crash, most private renters will struggle to buy and face a shrinking pool of homes to rent.
The debate of responsibility for making good defective cladding on high rise blocks, and who should pay for both remediation and ongoing safety costs until the cladding is replaced, continues. The issue was raised again in Parliament on Wednesday, in a Westminster Hall debate initiated by Croydon North Labour MP, Steve Reed. The owners of private blocks came under fire from MPs, as they have been slow to act, while leaseholders in such blocks are facing huge hikes in service charges to pay for fire wardens and other safety measures – and may well end up footing the bill for the removal and replacement, too.
The House of Commons Library published a briefing shortly after the debate outlining the problems faced.