National Residential Landlords Association

Labour housing plans a charter for rent dodgers

NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle – who attended the Labour conference this week - said the party’s determination to demonise landlords will backfire should it come to power, decimating the supply of homes to rent.

It is a depressingly familiar scene. A rallying cry against the evils of the private rented sector, followed by an earnest commitment to build more social housing. Another year, another Labour conference.

Labour's Shadow Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Secretary Lisa Nandy laid out the party's plans to reform the private rented sector on Monday. In her speech she essentially promised that, should Labour come to power, rent payments will be considered an ‘optional extra’ for tenants, with the party planning to end automatic repossessions for rent arrears.

For all Labour’s claims that such a move would support renters, the reality is it would make finding a home to rent harder and more expensive.

With the sector already shrinking as a result of the hostile tax environment and over-regulation, taking away landlords’ right to repossess where tenants are refusing to pay rent, would be the straw to break the camel’s back. They will simply sell up.

For property owners who are letting their homes, the right to regain possession when the tenant refuses to honour their commitment to pay the rent is fundamental.

Without this the sector will cease to function.

It isn't reasonable for property owners to be at the mercy of the courts, rent dodgers and the goodwill of the judge on the day to get possession for rent arrears.

And for those experiencing anti-social behaviour Labour’s proposed four month notice period, coupled with a nine-month court process will mean further misery.

The combined effects of what Labour is proposing, particularly as regards rent payments, will seriously damage landlord confidence and with it, the supply of homes to rent when demand is already high. Tenants will suffer in the long run.

Landlord-bashing is a popular pastime at events such as this, but we are not the enemy.

A thriving private rented sector offering tenants a choice of good quality homes in places they want to live is a vital part of the housing mix.

We all want to see more investment in social housing for those that need it, but the reality is that this housing, at present, does not exist and creating an ever more hostile environment for private landlords will make the situation worse, not better.

The reality is that promises of new social housing at some distant point in the future will do nothing to help renters struggling today.

For all its rousing speeches, the Labour party, should it come to power, will need to temper its ideology with a healthy does of realism and pragmatism.

I spoke to Lisa Nandy personally the day after her speech, to let her know that the NRLA is keen to take part in constructive discussions going forward, and to stress that, whatever her ambitions for home ownership and social housing, a robust PRS is an essential ingredient when it comes to realising them.

We have now agreed to meet with her and Shadow Housing Minister Matthew Pennycook to discuss positive ways to achieve tangible solutions and create a private sector that works for all.