Yesterday’s announcement by the Labour party of proposals to reform the private rented sector show that the issues we’ve been taking action on over the past couple of years are well and truly on the political radar.
If elected, Labour say they will ban letting agents from charging fees to tenants – a key demand of our Let Down campaign, which would bring practice here into line with Scotland.
Increasing tenancies to 3 years rather than 6 or 12 months is a definite improvement too, but it’s still not long enough. And landlords are likely to be able to exploit loopholes allowing them to evict tenants sooner by claiming they want to refurbish the property or move a member of their family in. We’re demanding secure lifetime tenancies for all tenants, as was the norm for council tenants until the government’s recent attack on them.
And while moves to stop massive rent hikes within these three year tenancies are welcome, it’s far from enough, given how unaffordable rents are in many places. As Miliband himself points out, rents will still be set by the market, regardless of whether those on even average incomes can afford them.
So while these announcements are a small step in the right direction, there’s far more to do. Given that only 6 per cent of private tenants would rent from a private landlord if they had the choice, a priority is the provision of far more genuinely affordable social housing. We also need more to be done about letting agents, who remain inadequately regulated and whose practices see tenants subject to discrimination on the basis of race and whether they receive benefits.
Of course, none of this will mean anything if any other political parties form the government after the next election. And we’ve learned the hard way that politicians often don’t keep their promises. So renters have got their work cut out, making sure real action to tackle the housing crisis is something that no politician can avoid.