Shadow housing minister John Healey, writing exclusively for RLA members’ magazine Residential Property Investor, shares his vision for the PRS should Labour come to power. Following Housing Minister Heather Wheeler’s exclusive piece in the previous edition, he talks rent controls, indefinite tenancies and the abolition of Section 21.
Most landlords I meet want the same thing as Labour for our private rented sector – a well-functioning market with a stable tax and legal framework, good consumer choice and clear rules which ban the rogues without tying the rest up in red tape.
That’s what a Labour government would seek to do.
We’re clear that these aims require a significant change from the status quo, which is why we’re planning year one legislation for the next Labour government to put the necessary, long-term reforms in place.
The main elements of our proposed plan for the private rented sector are: controls on rent rises, indefinite tenancies and stronger, clearer property standards.
My pledge in making these changes is that we’ll be upfront about what we plan, minimise uncertainty, give landlords as much time as possible to adjust, always be open to dialogue and refrain from the tinkering and ‘stop-go’ policy- making that has defined the Conservatives’ nine years in office.
I’ll also continue to say what I’ve always said about this sector: most landlords are good landlords and most tenants are happy with their home and satisfied with the job their landlord does.
The case for bold and significant change in the sector follows from the huge changes that we’ve seen in our private rented sector in recent years.
There are over a million more households renting from a private landlord than there were when I was Labour’s last housing minister in 2009.
The majority are no longer young people, but over-35s, and one in four of England’s families with kids now call a private rented property their home.
Unaffordable housing costs
1.7 million pay over a third of their income in rent – an internationally recognised benchmark of unaffordable housing costs.
We all know that many of these renting households are there as a result of a cost of housing crisis which means they are no longer able to own a home – or rent it from the local council – as their parents will likely have done at the same stage of life.
But this lack of choice mustn’t mean lower standards or unaffordable costs for those who do rent their home in the private sector.
We want to get our reforms right, so we welcome constructive discussion with landlords. Take our plans for indefinite tenancies, where this will be important.
Our recently announced Labour commitment to open-ended or indefinite tenancies in the private rented sector draws on the example of other countries, such as Germany and Scotland, and follows from our pledge to end ‘no fault’ evictions.
To make these changes work and give landlords the confidence that they can continue to let their properties to a wide range of tenants without fear of being unable to end the tenancy when needed, we’re interested in your views on the most important grounds for termination necessary in any new legislation.
For those of you who currently operate in Scotland, we want to know which parts of the recent legislation there work well, and which parts would need to be different were similar changes introduced in England.
I’ve also heard concerns that the current process for ending a tenancy when there are good grounds is too slow and too complicated.
We’ve made clear there will always be grounds to evict tenants who clearly breach reasonable tenancy terms or commit criminal behaviour in the property, and I’m interested in your suggestions on how we can simplify and streamline the process of eviction in these and other clear-cut circumstances.
I hope we can continue to have an open conversation on these points and on the other areas of our housing programme.
Ultimately, I hope we can work together to build a better private rented sector.