The General Election: What are the party plans?

There have been plenty of things over the past six months that have caused chaos in the private rental market, and just as we were starting to breathe a tentative sign of relief, a general election is called.

But what does this mean for landlords? More bad news to confuse the already frazzled market, or could this provide the clarity that the industry needs?

With a very short space of time to state their cases, and the Prime Minister refusing to enter into any televised debates, it’s likely that we’ll be treated to some fairly lively manifestos in the coming weeks.

Whilst you would anticipate that Brexit will be the main priority, the housing crisis cannot be ignored, and in a bid to appeal to the voting public it is likely that it will be a hot topic.

The short lead up time will give all parties a clear date to set out their policies with regards to all of the elements that are impacting the private rental market today – from tax to deregulation of greenbelt land for development. There’s nothing like an election manifesto to make sure that all policies are clear and easy to understand, and at least it should give some clarity on the foggiest of topics.

It is likely that crowd-pleasing promises, such as more homes for first time buyers designed to help people out of the rental cycle and onto the property ladder, and the scrapping of tenant fees will feature heavily in many manifestos.

We’ve pulled together all of the most recent housing manifestos from the major political parties. It’s important to remember that these are NOT the election manifestos, but may give some insight into what you can expect to hear in the coming weeks:

Labour

Jeremy Corbyn’s Secure Homes Guarantee includes introducing rental controls and a charter of private tenants’ rights – items which may or may not feature in his election manifesto.

His party line declares that ‘private rents are soaring and insecure tenancies are a significant cause of homelessness as people become more vulnerable to rip-off landlords in an unregulated market’. Labour already promises to:

  • Tackle soaring rents in the private rental sector through regulation,
  • Offering greater protections for “generation rent” by ensuring secure tenancies;
  • Outlawing letting agents administration charges;
  • Preventing unreasonable rent increases during tenancy and in between contracts;
  • Strengthen tenants rights to protect them from unfair evictions
  • Ensuring that properties in the private rented sector should be subject to a national standard to hold landlords to account over poor or unsafe living conditions
  • Bring decent standards to the private rented sector, including ensuring homes are properly insulated

Green Party

The Green Party’s latest housing policy believes that whilst the private rented sector has a role in meeting housing need, the sector is failing to provide secure, affordable and high standard homes.

Caroline Lucas’ party are keen campaigners for renter’s rights, and as such their manifesto is fairly substantial:

  • Assured Shorthold Tenancies should be phased out, and replaced with a new Stable Rental Tenancy, recognising that the property is the home of the tenant first, and an asset of the landlord second.
  • The abolition of section 21 powers, so it is the choice of good tenants whether they wish to remain in the property. The landlord may only end the tenancy at this time in order to sell the property (with proof of purchase)
  • Rents should be controlled - local rents would take up no more than 35% of the local median take-home pay
  • Local authorities shall establish Private Residential Tenancy Boards, providing an informal, cheap and speedy forum for resolving disputes before they reach a tribunal.
  • Bring lettings agents under the definition of an estate agency and give the Office of Fair Trading the ability to ban agents who act improperly.
  • It would be illegal for lettings agents to charge potential and current tenants any fees.
  • Introduce measures to ensure that black and minority ethnic people were not discriminated against, nor those in receipt of housing benefit
  • Simplify and toughen up the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), and introduce a national landlord licensing scheme, with the enforcement of licenses operated by local authorities
  • Scrap requirements for landlords to check the immigration status of tenants.
  • Support the development of a “Tenants' Movement” to provide a voice for tenants at a local and national level.

Liberal Democrats

As well as building more homes, Liberal Democrats want to radically reform the private rented sector to make it cheaper, safer and more secure to live in.

Although Tim Farron’s party are aware that private renters now make up a fifth of the population, the Liberal Democrat’s housing policy is fairly vague with regards to the private rental sector, although this may change with a more detail election manifesto:

  • Calling for lettings fees to be banned for tenants
  • Stronger measures to tackle rogue landlords.

Conservative Party

It’s not exactly packaged as a manifesto, but the recent Housing Market White Paper laid out the Conservative Party’s plans for the Housing market in succinct detail. From tax to greenbelt building, it was all contained within the hefty document – well timed just before the calling of a general election!

Theresa May’s topline facts for landlords were:

  • The national planning framework is being adapted to encourage local authorities to plan proactively for Build to Rent schemes, and allow B2R developers to offer private rental homes as well as other types of affordable housing.
  • Banning letting agent fees
  • Implementing Housing and Planning Act 2016 – promise to bring into force the plans to improve standards in the PRS
  • Working to promote family friendly 3-year tenancies – A new commitment to promote longer tenancies, but restricted to private rented homes delivered by housing associations and institutional investors, not buy-to-let landlords
  • Attracting institutional investment for build-to-rent schemes
  • Changing the complicated National Planning Policy Framework so authorities know they should plan proactively for build-to-rent projects
  • Make it easier for build-to-rent developers to offer affordable private rental homes instead of other types of affordable housing
  • Speeding up house building – giving local authorities the tools to speed up house building as well as powers to penalise developers who fail to deliver on time

SNP

Nicola Sturgeon will be passionately campaigning for the SNP’s ability to provide security and stability for Scotland’s tenants, landlords, lenders and investors.

The SNP’s current manifesto plans to deliver:

  • Take further action to drive out rogue landlords who exploit tenants in sub-standard accommodation
  • Consult on a national standard for private rented homes to ensure a good basic standard of accommodation.
  • Encourage councils to use the landlord registration system as way of providing information to landlords on their responsibilities and as a means of ensuring that legislation is being adhered to and action is being taken if it is not.
  • Encourage tenants to know their rights under current legislation on housing standards, repairing standards and the new tenancies legislation.

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