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Graham Awards


MPs and their own housing policy

It is to the credit of our political parties - and our own industry’s lobbying - that so many housing-related matters are at the centre of current general election debate.

Of course many within our business will dislike some specific proposals: mansion tax has gone down like a lead-balloon with high-end agents, while very few within the lettings sector will have time for an effectively-meaningless ban on agents’ fees on tenants.

Likewise, others in our business will want more proposals where none exist now: many trade bodies (and all of us at Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, incidentally) would like to see firmer regulation over rogue agents, tenants’ deposits and the like.


But whatever our misgivings about individual proposals, this is all a far cry from the 2010 election when housing, agency and related issues were hardly mentioned at all.

And there is one other property issue - of a kind - that is also markedly different this time round. There is no substantial public disquiet about MPs’ housing expenses.

There is a link between MP and the property sector because, ahead of the 2010 election, the Expenses Scandal was inextricably linked to housing - the first, second or sometimes third properties run, let or rented by MPs with more than a little help from the public.

Few will forget those MPs who charged taxpapers - AKA, us - for moat cleaning, the purchase of a £1,645 duck house or the costs associated with flipping of homes in order to optimise income, for example.

But in recent years this thorny issue has been cleaned up, at least to some extent. It’s worth looking at what MPs can and cannot claim in terms of their homes in 2015:

Second Homes: MPs with constituencies outside a 20-mile or 60-minute travel radius of the Palace of Westminster can claim up to £1,450 a month to rent (not buy) a second home. Claims for gardening and cleaning are no longer allowed. Those older and longer-standing MPs who before 2010 owned second homes paid for on expenses received continuing public funding for them only until August 2012;  

London MPs: Those MPs with constituencies inside the 20-mile/60-minute radius can claim £3,760 per year towards their housing costs;  

Grace and Favour Homes: Any minister with a grace and favour home cannot claim any accommodation expenses. This is a complete reversal of the old regime, where the full second home costs (then £24,000 a year) could be claimed; 

Co-Habiting MPs: MPs sharing rental accommodation (either because they are personal partners or simply flat-sharers) can claim no more than one and a third of an MP's accommodation budget in total. Under the old system, they could each claim a full £24,000 second home allowance.

Remember that of course MPs also receive a five figure annual communications budget, daily meal allowances, travel allowances and the ability to employ a family member - plus, it appears, a likely inflation-busting 10 per cent salary rise after the May election, taking their basic pay to £74,000 indexed to changes in average earnings thereafter.  

Remuneration on that scale is still generous by the standards of MPs in some countries, although it should be pointed out that other nations pay their parliamentarians far more, either as a direct salary or expenses or both.

What some regard as ‘abuse’ of the current system still occurs: only last month Channel 4 discovered that 46 MPs have claimed expenses for London rent or hotels despite owning a property in the capital. This was entirely legal and - bizarrely - within the rules of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which sets and polices expenses.

When we judge what candidates say about house building, lettings and the rest, we now have an understanding of what property perks they will get if they win - and how much we will have to pay to keep them in business...whether or not we like their housing policies.

*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property @PropertyJourn


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