Ahead of political parties launching their election manifestos over the next week, we look at some of the statements politicians from each of the three major parties have made when it comes to housing – and in particular the private rented sector.
You can also check out the RLA’s six-point election manifesto which has been sent to each of the main parties and sets out a positive vision for the future of the PRS
Section 21 and longer tenancies
The Conservatives launched a consultation proposing the abolition of Section 21 with both Labour and the Lib Dems calling for it to be scrapped.
Labour has also pledged to introduce German style indefinite tenancies.
With regards to boosting the supply of PRS homes to rent the Conservatives want to build ‘more homes of all tenures’.
Labour has pledged to introduce a new ‘Right to Buy’ in the private rented sector, by forcing landlords to sell to their tenants should they wish to buy the home. Landlords predictably reacted with horror to the plan.
While Labour has not shared must detail about how the scheme would work in practise Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, quoted in The Times last month, said it would not affect landlords with just one or two properties.
The Lib Dems have said nothing on supply.
Local Housing Allowance
The Conservatives said that from April 2020 benefits will increase in line with inflation, with both Labour and the Lib Dems saying they would remove the benefit cap, with Corbyn saying Labour would end Universal Credit.
Direct payments of housing element of Universal Credit to go straight to landlord.
While the Conservatives have made it easier for landlords to get direct payments where tenants have fallen into arrears, they are not in favour of allowing tenants to opt for direct payments to be made outside these circumstances.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats back the plans.
Right to Rent
The Conservative government is appealing a High Court ruling earlier this year that Right to Rent is discriminatory.
Again, both the Labour and Liberal Democrats groups said they would end Right to Rent were they to come to power.
The RLA believes urgent reform is needed.
HCLG Secretary, Robert Jenrick, when questioned by the HCLG Committee on plans to abolish Section 21 said: “We have also followed the issue of how we can make the courts work better. In November of last year, we launched a call for evidence on the experience of landlords and tenants in dealing with the court system. Again, that is an issue that I will be giving greater thought to.”
The results of the call to evidence has yet to be published and there was little detail on court reform in the governments’ Section 21consultation.
Sarah Jones, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister responsible for the PRS said protecting tenants’ rights is the most important thing. She said: “There is little point in a housing court or ombudsman if tenants do not have rights to protect in the first place.” during a Westminster Hall debate on the HCLG Committee’s report on the PRS, 29th November 2018)
In its Conference 2019 motion, Reforming Housing Legislation: Scrapping Section 21 ‘No Fault Evictions’ the Liberal Democrats called for “reform of court process (as has happened in Scotland) to enable landlords to have easier access to justice in the event that tenants are found to be in breach of their tenancy agreements.”
Enforcement and Regulation
This month the Conservative government announced a £4 million funding pot, allowing councils to bid for cash to help improve enforcement against “criminal landlords.”
Robert Jenrick said: “It is clearly in nobody’s interests for there to be bad landlords. It is obviously not in the interest of the tenants, but it is not in the interest of respectable, legitimate landlords either that these individuals give their industry a bad name.
“I would like to go further. There are more steps that might be available to us. As you know, we have been following selective licensing and there is some evidence that that has succeeded in the parts of the country where it has been tried. That is something that we are considering, and we will be responding on that in due course.”
HCLG Minister, Viscount Younger of Leckie also confirmed the government has no plans for a national register.
He said: “This Government has no current plans to introduce a national landlord register, which could place an additional regulatory burden on landlords.”
Last year Labour expressed support for Phil Wilson MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill, the Private Landlords (Registration) Bill. This would have required all landlords in England to be registered.
The Liberal Democrats called for action to: “Support renters by enabling local authorities to create and maintain registers of landlords providing private rental properties for lease” in its Conference 2019 motion, with a policy paper pledging to introduce a new regulator for all private renters and require all private landlords with more than 25 homes to register with the new regulator. The regulator would have the power to subject landlords to cyclical regulator inspections and to inspect properties on shorter notice.
The Conservatives do not agree with rent controls. HCLG Secretary, Robert Jenrick , speaking to the HCLG Committee in October 2019 said: “I am not in favour of rent controls. As I said, that has proven to be very negative for both landlords and tenants in the past, and I do not want to see any move in that direction.”
In contrast Labour has made no secret of plans to control rents should the party come to power. In a speech to the Labour Party Conference in September 2017 Jeremy Corbyn said: “Rent controls exist in many cities across the world and I want our cities to have those powers too and tenants to have those protections.”
The Liberal Democrats have previously called for inflation or wage linked rents.
Earlier this year leading politicians from all three main parties wrote exclusively for the RLA’s members’ magazine Residential Property Investor.
To read a piece by then Conservative Housing Minister Heather Wheeler click here.
To read Shadow Housing Minister John Healey’s article click here.
And to read the piece penned by Liberal Democrat peer and housing spokesman Lord Shipley click here.
To read the RLA manifesto in full click here.