At the party’s conference in Liverpool in late September, Labour seemed to set out its stall to target the tenant vote as it outlined its plans to create a Renters’ Charter in the first 100 days of coming to power.
Lisa Nandy, the MP for Wigan since 2010 and the current Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, told delegates at the party’s annual conference what Labour would do if it won the next general election, which is expected to take place in 2024.
Nandy said the party’s Renters’ Charter would give tenants more rights and safer homes and tilt the balance of power back into their favour. She also told the audience that Labour would prioritise tackling the housing crisis.
The potential new housing charter is expected to include an end to automatic evictions for rent arrears and no-fault evictions, as well as the right for renters to have pets, to make reasonable alterations to a property, and introduce a four-month notice period for landlords.
Nandy has also said Labour would create a national register of landlords, the potential for schemes to make tenancy deposits more portable, and a legally binding decent homes standard.
Nandy also said the party would focus ‘unapologetically’ on providing more council housing – a sign that could worry those operating in the buy-to-let sector. She also claimed Labour would be the first government in a generation to restore social housing to the second largest housing tenure – it has lagged behind private rented accommodation in recent years.
While widespread rental reform was getting much closer under a Boris Johnson Government with a thorough White Paper setting out a clear direction of travel, the Liz Truss administration seems to be taking a more relaxed approach to wide-ranging changes, with the proposals on the ice again for the moment. Housing Secretary Simon Clarke is set to outline his plans for rental reform at some point, although an exact date hasn’t yet been given.
The Times recently rumoured that the Truss Government would be rowing back on its plan to abolish Section 21, so-called no-fault evictions. After a fierce backlash, however, Truss announced her commitment to scrapping the notices at PMQs.
With uncertainty about the Conservatives’ plans, Labour might see this as the chance to be the party of rental reform.
The NRLA wasn’t best pleased with the seemingly anti-landlord rhetoric from Labour. Ben Beadle, the body’s chief executive, said he is fed up with politicians demonising landlords. He claimed that ending automatic repossessions for rent arrears would send a dangerous signal that paying rent was somehow an ‘optional extra’.
He added that Labour should be ‘focused instead on preventing rent arrears in the first place by unfreezing housing benefit rates and addressing the supply crisis in the PRS, which is the biggest driver of rents’.