The three main political parties have all now published their manifestos as they seek to form the next government. What are their policies for the PRS and what do they mean for landlords and tenants? The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) voices their opinion.
The RLA welcomes plans to introduce lifetime deposits for tenants. David Smith, the RLA’s Policy Director, has commented that they have long been in favour of a transferable deposit scheme which would make renting cheaper and easier for tenants.
Albeit with the proviso that the details must be worked out in such a way that both landlords and tenants have complete confidence in how the scheme will work.
Regarding the promise by the Conservatives to end so-called ‘no fault’ repossessions, the RLA agrees that the system needs reform, but it should be carried out in a careful and considered way.
While the new system should protect tenants from the minority of landlords who ride roughshod over the current legislation, it is equally important that good landlords should be able to regain possession of their property quickly and easily in the event of tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.
The RLA would ideally like to see comprehensive reform that benefits both landlords and tenants and they believe this should include the development of a dedicated housing court of law offering straightforward and inexpensive access to justice for both tenants and landlords.
Labour’s plans, Smith believes, would disadvantage tenants. Although the party wants to see longer tenancies, it has put forward no suggestions as to how good landlords could be encouraged and supported to remain in the private rental sector (PRS) long-term.
While enabling tenants to remain in their property is an admirable ambition, it needs to be underpinned by a system that allows landlords to regain possession of their property quickly in legitimate circumstances. And Labour’s plans do not provide this assurance.
Furthermore, the Party’s plans to link rent controls to inflation are illogical. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has already stated that rents are increasing by less than inflation. Additionally, the Party has failed to heed the Labour Chair of Parliament’s Housing Committee who has stated that the issue is a matter of supply and demand.
The issue of rising rents will only be addressed once more houses are built. In fact, the Party’s former Housing Minister in Wales has also warned that rent controls would only result in reduced quality of accommodation and diminished supply, thereby making it more difficult for tenants to find the rental homes they need.
Smith added that the next government needs to concentrate on providing more homes of every kind, including those for private rental. And Labour’s plans would fail to achieve this.
The RLA readily agrees with the Lib Dems’ plans to help younger tenants access rented housing by means of a deposit loan scheme. This is a policy the RLA has long supported which could improve younger people’s prospects significantly.
However, the RLA draws the line at the Party’s proposals for three-year tenancies with rent increases pegged to inflation. These make no sense when a tenant’s average length of stay in a property is more than four years and private rents are increasing by less than inflation.
Proposals to end both the Local Housing Allowance Cap (LHA) and the concept of a ‘hostile environment‘ for illegal immigrants are welcomed and they mirror plans put forward by the RLA in its own manifesto for the PRS. Although the Party’s plans for a blanket licensing scheme for landlords require further consideration.
As the scheme stands, rogue landlords would simply evade their responsibilities and leave good landlords to compensate for what would be an expensive waste of time.