The road to Number 10 goes through the private rental market

The Budget is coming up on 22 November and we already know the Chancellor is planning an announcement on giving private renters greater security of tenure.

The inadequacy of private tenancies has become too difficult to ignore, and we now have both Labour and the Conservatives trying to find a solution.

Not only will reform of the rental market reap social and economic benefits - there are huge political rewards for getting it right.

We’ve found that this year’s General Election result handed private tenants a huge amount of political influence.

We looked at the 100 closest seats in England that the Conservatives will defend or target at the next election,

At the 2011 census, private renters made up 16% of the population. As we tend to be concentrated in urban areas, only 211 out of 650 Parliamentary constituencies (32%) had private renter populations of 17% or more.

But of the 100 seats where the Conservatives will defend or try to overcome a majority of 5000 or less, 46 have higher then average private renter populations – meaning renters will have extra influence over the result of the next election.

These seats includes the Conservative targets Eastbourne and Darlington, and the Labour targets Loughborough and Worcester.

The Conservatives appear to have a lot of ground to make up with private renters. Of the 33 seats the party lost at the June General Election, 21 had a larger-than-average private renter population at the 2011 census (64%).

What they need is a policy that will give renters greater stability in their lives, the ability to plan, encouragement to invest in their home and their community, and the confidence to take on a negligent landlord.

But the early signs are not good. When Communities Secretary Sajid Javid revealed that new incentives would be announced at the Autumn Budget for landlords who give tenants more security, he suggested that this would entail tenancies of at least 12 months, and an extra month’s notice if the landlord wants to take back the property.

But the majority of landlords already offer 12 month tenancies, and even with an extra month’s notice, renters could do everything right and still lose their home and bear the costs of finding a new one.

Not only would that make a mockery of the concept of security, but it would mean the government rewards landlords for doing slightly more than the bare minimum. Not many votes in that.

But nothing is set in stone and we’ve been calling on the government to go as far as possible in the Budget:

  • Landlords should give a valid reason for taking back a property – this would help prevent revenge evictions which are used to intimidate tenants, and is already being introduced in Scotland.
  • Landlords should pay the tenant’s moving costs if they are forced to move without being at fault – this would encourage landlords who wanted to sell up to sell to another landlord with the tenants still living in the property.
  • Landlords should not raise rent by more than wages are rising – this would help tenants plan their finances and stop landlords from forcing tenants out by raising the rent.

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See whether renters hold the deciding vote in your constituency (Excel download)


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