As the battle of political policies continues ahead of next month’s General Election, now Labour has unveiled a raft of initiatives about the private rental sector.
It says it will introduce rent caps in line with inflation and allow city councils and mayors specific powers to exercise further controls if they wish.
It will introduce so-called “open-ended tenancies” and unspecified “new binding minimum standards.”
Labour falls in line with the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in calling for the scrapping of Section 21, and replicates the LibDem policy of nationwide landlord licensing.
Amongst other more vague policies it says it will introduce “tougher sanctions for landlords who flout the rules” and will introduce “new renters’ unions in every part of the country – to allow renters to organise and defend their rights.”
It also adds: ”We will get rid of the discriminatory rules that require landlords to check people’s immigration status or that allow them to exclude people on housing benefit. We will give councils new powers to regulate short-term lets through companies such as Airbnb.”
Labour’s policies have won short shrift from the Residential Landlords Association which says they would hurt tenants.
Policy director David Smith says: “Its plans for rent controls linked to inflation are also nonsense. The Office for National Statistics has shown that rents are increasing by less than inflation.
“The party has failed to heed the warning of the Labour Chair of Parliament’s Housing Committee who has previously warned that rising rents will only be addressed when more homes are built.
“The party’s former Housing Minister in Wales has also warned that rent controls serve only to reduce the quality of accommodation, choke off supply, and make it more difficult for tenants to find the homes to rent they need.”
The Legal for Landlords organisation has responded to the various party manifestos by saying Section 21 was being used as a political football.
"Scrapping S21 would have a huge impact not only on landlords, but on the very people the government is misguidedly seeking to protect. Agents and landlords will be far more particular when it comes to choosing tenants if Section 21 is abolished, with compliance, legislation and risk factors all increased. To limit that risk, landlords will want only the best tenants.
“Previous assurances that Section 8 will be enhanced further is cold comfort to landlords and agents who are familiar with its proliferation of loopholes. For many landlords, it’s frankly a terrifying thought that this outdated legislation is all they have to protect their interests.”
“The reality is, the court system is a mess and has been for over a decade - it already takes far too long to secure possession of a property. Our team has seen cases that have taken upwards of 10 months to resolve from start to finish, which is just utterly unacceptable, particularly where there is progressive damage taking place inside the property. I’m under no illusion that there are unscrupulous landlords out there, and I’m supportive of secure tenancy, but the wholesale dilution of landlords’ rights isn’t the way to tackle the issue.”