What are Labour's plans for the private rented sector?

3 October 2022

With a current lead in the polls, what would be the Labour party's plans for the private rented sector if it were to win a general election?

A recent Yougov poll shows that the Labour party has a 33 point "vote intention" lead on the Conservatives - the largest recorded since the late 1990s - meaning that, if there were a general election tomorrow, Labour would be predicted to win comfortably. Here's an overview of what that could mean for the UK's private rented sector (PRS).

A new renters' charter promised

Labour has revealed its plans for rental reform through a renters' charter. The party would publish a white paper in its first weeks in power, and would consult on how to stabilise rent increases with industry groups. The charters' proposals would then be put to a vote within 100 days of winning a general election.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Lisa Nandy, says: "For private renters we will tilt the balance of power back to you through a powerful new renters’ charter and a new decent homes standard – written into law."

What would be included in Labour's renters' charter?

In line with the Renters' Reform Bill proposals, the would charter reiterate support for plans to abolish section 21 "no fault" evictions, create a legally binding Decent Homes Standard, and create a national landlord register, echoing the existing proposal of a Property Portal.

However, the charter is also expected to cover some new measures and variations on the existing proposals:

  • The charter plans to end "automatic evictions for rent arrears"
  • It would introduce a four-month notice period for landlords
  • It would also include the right for renters to have pets as well as making "reasonable" alterations to a property
  • Schemes to make tenancy deposits "more portable" would also be examined

Ben Beadle, the National Residential Landlords Association's Chief Executive, says that: “The combined effects of what Labour is proposing, in particular essentially making rent payments an optional extra, will seriously damage confidence and with it, the supply of homes to rent when demand is already high. Tenants will suffer in the long run."

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A social housing and home-ownership focus

Labour has also thrown its support behind social housing, with Nandy saying that it will "be the first government in a generation to restore social housing to the second largest form of tenure," bumping the private rented sector back into third position.

Party leader Keir Starmer additionally declared a focus on making owning a home a reality for 70% of the population, saying that Labour will become “the party of home ownership in Britain today”.

It would achieve this through a new mortgage guarantee scheme, for first-time buyers, and planning reforms to help communities get "shovels in the ground".

However, this may come at a price for landlords as Starmer says that there will be "no more buy-to-let landlords or second homeowners getting in first."

Support for rent control or a rent freeze

In addition to these new proposals, Labour has previously been in support of introducing rent controls, particularly the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Rent caps were ruled out by the current government in the A Fairer Private Rented Sector Renters' Reform Bill white paper but a Labour government may therefore be more open to it in the future.

Since Scotland's announcement of a rent freeze lasting until at least the end of March 2023, Nandy has also revealed that she's exploring the possibility of giving councils the power to introduce a rent freeze.

“Local mayors and council leaders should be able to make decisions to freeze rent increases in their local areas over the winter," says Nandy.

Emergency legislation over the winter

Further to this support for a rent freeze, Labour's housing spokesperson, Matthew Pennycook, has also called for the A Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper proposals to be pushed through in the form of emergency legislation, to protect tenants over the winter months.

"The government must act, and they must act now," he says. "If they introduced emergency legislation enacting the proposals set out in the White Paper, Labour would support it.”

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