In the final instalment of our manifesto reviews, we take a look at what the Conservative Party has to offer private renters.
Security of tenure
The Conservatives have committed to:
abolishing ‘no fault’ evictions
'No fault' evictions, made possible under Section 21 of the Housing Act, made over 28,000 families homeless last year. Abolishing it, would require landlords to prove a valid reason for eviction, helping to protect tenants from revenge evictions, give them stability in their home and foster greater trust in the relationship.
Unlike Labour and the Green Party, who would usher in open-ended tenancies, the Conservatives do not confirm details of the new system. The last government proposed fixed terms as an option in its consultation. The Conservatives have reassured landlords that they will be 'strengthening your rights of possession'. We don't currently know what these will be, and will continue to campaign against any grounds that would allow unfair evictions to continue.
Landlords who currently use Section 21 to evict tenants who complain might threaten to raise the rent instead. We have been calling for caps on rent rises linked to wage inflation to prevent this. The Conservatives don't mention this in the manifesto - though the recent consultation suggests that they will rely on the rent tribunal to prevent unfair increases. We believe this would need to be strengthened significantly to offer tenants sufficient protection.
Safe and decent homes
The manifesto promises 'measures to support the creation of new kinds of homes that have low energy bills', but offers no further details on how this might be achieved. Other than this, there is no mention of improving the safety and quality of privately rented homes. One in seven privately rented homes is currently unsafe, and tenants have few avenues of redress when things go wrong. Low income tenants in the PRS are the worst affected by fuel poverty, and it is disappointment not to see further measures to address these problems in existing homes.
A national register of landlords would improve transparency and drive up standards in the sector, whilst allowing local authorities to better target enforcement against criminal landlords. There is no mention in the manifesto of the last government's plans to introduce a new redress system for private landlords which would (despite commitments relating to freeholders and social landlords). The ability to operate as a landlord and collect rent should be contingent on properties being of good standard and landlords meeting conditions set out by local authorities.
Fairness and affordability
The Conservative manifesto pledges to introduce
a ‘lifetime’ deposit which moves with the tenant.
This initiative would mean tenants won’t have to pay for a new deposit while waiting for the old one back, and would help to make moving home more affordable for tenants.
We have been calling for tenants to be able to transfer this money between tenancies through a deposit passport scheme. Not only would this make renting more affordable, but tenants would have greater control over their homes and lives. Introducing a 'lifetime deposit' is an opportunity for tenants' money to be used more productively than it is currently - around £4.4bn of tenants cash is protected in deposits, and the returns on this should be used to benefit renters (for example to put towards other associated costs of moving). Moving home is costly and disruptive, so a commitment to reforming this is welcome.
The Conservatives are the only major party not to commit to building a set number of social homes for rent, instead merely promising 1m homes of all tenures and a Social Housing White Paper. Instead, their flagship announcement on affordability is the introduction of a lifetime fixed-rate mortgage with a deposit of just 5%, aimed at first-time buyers. While lowering deposits may seem like a simple way of helping people own their own home, fixed-rate mortgages are could risk pushing up house prices further, as has happened when previous Labour Governments expanded these mortgages. A more effective way to ensure affordability in the PRS is to address demand and provide homes for those on lower incomes through building social housing, and committing to a firm target would be a good starting point.
As part of their measures designed to cut crime, the manifesto also pledges to 'make intentional trespass a criminal offence.' This move would expand landowners rights and could have a significant impact on renters' rights to organise and to resist illegal evictions through criminalising this activity. Renters unions require legal provision for collective bargaining, the right to strike and laws against victimisation of renters involved in union organising.
Make sure renting is on your local candidates' radars - get involved at www.rentermanifesto.org