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Labour Party sets out its election stall for private renting

The British Labour Party has released details of plans to reform the English private rented sector in the event of it forming the next government after the General Election in May 2015.  The commitments include longer tenancies, greater security of tenure, more predictable rents, better regulation, proper enforcement of safety and decency standards and the compulsory licensing of all letting agents.

Proposed reforms

The reforms, previously set out by party leader Ed Miliband and discussed at the party conference this week in Manchester, include:

  • The introduction of three-year tenancy agreements with a six-month probationary period.  At the end of the probationary period, the landlord can evict if the tenant is in breach of the agreement.  In the remaining two and a half year term the landlord could only evict in prescribed circumstances, but tenants could end the tenancy be giving one month's notice.
  • A ban on excessive rental increases. Labour says it will take advice from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which is examining options for rent benchmarks. These could be linked to average rent rises or inflation or a combination of both.
  • A ban on letting agents charging tenant s up-front fees for low level services, such as producing a tenancy agreement.
  • The registration of all landlords in a self-financing scheme from which they would be excluded if they are found guilty of illegal evictions, harassment, the theft of deposits or serious disrepair.
  • The introduction of a Decent Homes Fitness Standard for private renting.

Labour also wants a review of tax treatment to encourage investment in the sector and the introduction of equity-share repair loans to achieve the new decency standard. In addition, the party proposed that a “National Private Tenant Voice” should be set up and supported.

Reforms only apply to England

It should be noted that these proposed reforms only relate to the private rented sector in England and NOT Northern Ireland.  It is likely that the local Department for Social Development will instigate a review of regulation in the PRS before the end of the year. No doubt some, if not all, of these reforms will be on the agenda during this review process. Our forthcoming conference on Bigger & Better: The Future of Private Renting in NI, scheduled to take place on 6 November in Riddel Hall, Belfast will also consider and debate many of these proposals.  

Tagged In

Outside NI, Private Tenancies

This article was written on 26 September 2014. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.