When the United Kingdom goes to the ballot box on the 7th of May, the electorate will cast their votes with a host of prominent issues in mind, but how will your choice of political party impact on Tenants and Landlords in England?
The key parties’ manifestos don’t make for the most thrilling reading, so we made a strong pot of coffee and scrutinised them for you.
The Conservative Party‘s manifesto actually makes no explicit reference to the private rented sector, but focuses intently on helping more people onto the housing ladder by extending the Help to Buy scheme. Their Help to Buy ISA will aid renters trying to save up for a deposit, and they aim to build 200,000 ‘Starter Homes’ exclusively aimed at first-time buyers under 40.
As far as the lettings industry goes, the Conservatives are taking an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach. Over the past five years, the coalition has made minor adjustments to legislation to make letting agents’ fees more transparent and to increase living standards and security within privately rented properties, and they seem to feel that this has left the industry in a good position.
In this area, the Labour Party has taken a drastically different approach to their rivals. Ed Miliband is proposing a shake-up to the industry which will involve a ban on ‘unfair letting agent fees [which] will save renters over £600’. The Labour manifesto does not stipulate what constitutes ‘unfair’, but it is not clear whether this will be the blanket ban on fees that some had expected, such as the one implemented in Scotland in 2012.
Other Labour initiatives include legislating to make three-year tenancies the norm, and imposing a ceiling on ‘excessive rent rises’. As with the above policy, ‘excessive’ will presumably not be defined until after the election, but it is bound to be linked to inflation rates. Finally, Labour has pledged to ‘drive standards up’ by introducing a national register of private landlords, doubtless designed to weed out ‘rogue’ Landlords.
The Liberal Democrats‘ manifesto covers similar ground to that of Labour, in that it proposes standard ‘multi-year’ tenancies with rent increases linked to inflation. They also moot a ban on letting agent fees, although this would not be implemented until 2017 and would be on the condition that fees have not dropped to an ‘affordable level by the end of 2016’ following transparency requirements brought in by the coalition.
Nick Clegg has also pledged to introduce a new initiative called ‘Help to Rent’. With other parties placing sole emphasis on helping first-time buyers onto the property ladder, the Liberal Democrats would also aim to assist those struggling to save a deposit for a rented property. This would be aimed at first-time renters under 30, and would take the form of a government-backed tenancy deposit loan.
UKIP‘s manifesto is another that focuses solely on home ownership and does not set out any major changes for Tenants or Landlords. They wish to build more affordable housing aimed at first-time buyers, and aim to bring some of England’s ‘279,000 privately-owned long-term empty homes’ back into use through increasing taxation on properties that remain empty for more than 2 years.
The Green Party manifesto usurps Labour’s proposals and sets out its own plans for what would be a highly regulated private rented sector. Natalie Bennett’s party would introduce a ‘living rent’ tenancy which would include five-year fixed tenancy agreements, as well as ‘smart rent control’ that caps annual rent increases to the Consumer Price Index.
Local not-for-profit letting agencies would be set up, and fees for tenants would be abolished across all agencies. A mandatory license for Landlords would be established, and alterations would be made to make buy-to-let mortgages less attractive, including removing tax incentives such as mortgage interest relief.
The Conservatives and UKIP seem content with the current condition of the lettings industry, and do not address private renters or landlords in their manifestos. The Liberal Democrats and Labour both outline alterations to the sector, with both parties agreeing on rent control, standard multi-year tenancies and regulation of agency fees. The most radical policies are those of the Green Party, whose plans would drastically change how renting works for tenants, landlords and agents.
On May the 7th, Britain’s political landscape may well change; it remains to be seen whether the private rented sector will also be affected.