Home » General Election: What are Labour’s policies for the Private Rented Sector?

General Election: What are Labour’s policies for the Private Rented Sector?

Matthew Pennycook and Angela Rayner during the debate at the Report Stage of the Renters Reform Bill in the House of Commons

With the General Election having been called for 4 July, and Labour being the bookies’ favourite to win, what do we actually know about Labour’s policies for the private rented sector (PRS)?

The Renters Reform Bill did not make it onto the statute book in the “wash up” period, when the government rushed a few key bills through parliament. This means that a Labour government would need to start from scratch with new legislation if it wants to abolish “no fault evictions” with a new bill.

We can at this stage only speculate what would a Renters Reform Bill 2.0 look like. Labour has not yet published its policies for PRS or housing more broadly. Housing and renting weren’t even mentioned in Keir Starmer’s First Steps for Change announced on 16 May.

That said, Angela Rayner gave a well-timed keynote speech on housing on 21 May 2024, which contained some interesting snippets for the PRS, saying that a “secure, affordable home” was at the heart of their first steps for change, and reiterating their commitment to “ban no fault evictions, no ifs, no buts”.

We’ll need to wait until Labour publishes their manifesto for more detail. But in the meantime, there are indications of what a Labour government’s approach to the PRS might look like from Angela Rayner’s speech, the amendments proposed in the Report Stage of the Renters Reform Bill, and in the recent independent report by Stephen Cowan into the PRS.

This blog post pulls it all together and examines what landlords might expect if Labour do win a general election, as expected, on 4 July.

PS I am not a member of any political party and have not decided who to vote for.

Last updated: 25 May 2024

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>> Related Post: What the General Election means for the Private Rented Sector

What have the Labour Party said about the private rented sector?

Both Deputy Leader & Housing Secretary, Angela Rayner and Shadow Housing Minister, Matthew Pennycook, have said on numerous occasions they would abolish no fault evictions in their first 100 days in power. This will undoubtedly be a priority for Labour in the event they win the election.

Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said at the Labour Party conference in October 2023 that “a house should be a home not an asset”.

Angela Rayner highlighted on the lack of progress by the government on rental reform by saying “Labour will achieve rental reform where the Tories have failed for four and a half years. Finishing the job by banning ‘no fault’ evictions”. She repeated the promise to “ban no fault evictions, no ifs, no buts”, in her speech on 21 May 2024.

Rachel Reeves was also quoted in the Telegraph on 17 May as not ruling out the possibility that local authorities could impose rent caps. She said: “I think that should be up to local areas to decide, there may be the case for that in some local areas, but as a blanket approach, I’m not convinced by that.” This is not an easy thing to do legally, so we’ll have to see if Labour do include this in their manifesto.

Matthew Pennycook gave a strong indication on X on 24 May that they will push forward with renter reform legislation:

Angela Rayner’s speech on housing on 21 May 2024 to UKREiiF

Angela Rayner gave a speech to the UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF) on 21 May 2024. Here are the highlights for the Private Rented Sector (thank you to Housing Today for publishing the transcript):

  • Abolition of Section 21: “Labour will ban no fault evictions, no ifs no buts”. No mention of other renter reforms.
  • Leasehold Reform: “We’ll end the mediaeval leasehold system, with root and branch reform”.
  • New Towns:
    • Invoking the spirit of Clement Atlee, they would build the “next generation New Towns” that will be “fit for the future”.
    • Speed is key. They would set up an “expert independent task force” with a mandate to help choose “the right sites and a list of projects will be announced within our first 12 months of government”, to “start building the towns of the future within months, not decades”.
  • Social Housing: More social social and affordable homes – with “a gold standard aim of 40 per cent” on new developments.
  • Brownfield sites: They would ensure that “brownfield sites are approved quicker so homes get built fast”.
  • Green space: Lots of emphasis on building homes with access to green space. This would include developing new policies for “planting trees, restoring habitats and helping wildlife thrive”.

What changes have the Labour Party proposed to the Renters Reform Bill?

Matthew Pennycook tabled a number of official Labour Party amendments to the Renters Reform Bill at the Report Stage in the House of Commons on 24 April 2024. Although these amendments might be seen as posturing, given we are so close to a general election, they indicate the Labour Party’s current policies for the PRS.

Here is a summary of the Labour Party’s amendments to the Renters Reform Bill at the Report Stage (none of which made it into the Bill):

  • The abolition of Section 21 to come into force when the Act receives Royal Assent, except that any notices already served on or before that date will continue to be valid – amendment 28.
  • Landlords cannot use Ground 1 (landlord/family moving in) or Ground 1A (landlord selling up) within the first two years of a tenancy, instead of the 6 months in the Bill – amendment 255.
  • An increase from 3 months to 12 months for the “restricted period” during which the landlord cannot relet the property after relying on Ground 1 (landlord/family moving in) or Ground 1A (landlord selling up) – amendment 35.
  • The new Mandatory Ground 8A relating to repeated rent arrears would become a Discretionary Ground – amendment 19.
  • Allow the tribunal to make rent repayment orders for additional specific breaches – amendment NC31.
  • Extend “Awaab’s law” to the private rented sector – amendment NC10.
  • New right for a tenant to reclaim “any increased rent” from a private landlord through a debt claim if the landlord increases the rent without issuing a Section 13 notice (or Section 13A notice for low cost tenancies) – amendment 21.
  • When a rent assessment is carried out by a tribunal, the tribunal cannot decide the rent should be higher than the rent requested by a landlord in their Section 13 notice – amendment 22.
  • The PRS Database must include details of notices of possession served by a landlord for each property of which they are the landlord – amendment 27.
  • Landlords (or those acting on their behalf) would be prohibiting from “inviting or encouraging bids that exceed the amount stated as part of the advertisement or offer of the premises” – amendment NC7.

>> Related Post: Renters Reform Bill Hub

>> Related Post: Renters Reform Bill and the Decent Homes Standard for the PRS

Stephen Cowan’s Independent Review of the Private Rented Housing Sector

Stephen Cowan's Independent Review of the UK's Private Rented Housing Sector

On 15 May 2024, Stephen Cowan (Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham since 2014) published his much anticipated Independent Review of the UK’s Private Rented Housing Sector. This report was originally commissioned by Lisa Nandy and took 17 months to produce. His recommendations apply to England and Wales.

According to The Guardian, the Labour Party “distanced itself from the findings in the report, saying they [did] not reflect its official view”, and no members of the Shadow Cabinet were present at the launch of the report.

The report stresses that its findings are not Labour Policy: “The conclusions reached in it are solely ours and in no way reflect the views of the people we interviewed, the Labour Party, the Shadow Cabinet or any other individuals or organisation”.

Here are the key recommendations in the report:

1. “Rent stabilisation”

The report recommends “rent stabilisation within but not between tenancies”, with the following features:

  • Rent increases would be limited to the lower of “local wage growth or CPI” in England and Wales.
  • Landlords would only be able to increase rent once a year (as per the Renters Reform Bill).
  • Landlords to give four months’ notice of an increase, instead of the existing one month under Section 13, which is due to increase to two months under the Renters Reform Bill.
  • Rent review clauses would be banned, as per the Renters Reform Bill.

There would be no controls on the rent set for new tenancies.

The report recognises that rent stabilisation “may increase short-term pressures on the supply of PRS lets”.However, the report explains this away by saying that “so many [landlords] were most likely going to leave anyway” as they are highly leveraged and have been exposed to higher mortgages rates.

Instead, the report seeks to “encourage and incentivise institutional investors and the emerging Build to Rent (BtR) sector to increase the supply of long-term lets through new development, replacing lost Buy to Let stock and contributing to the country’s overall housing supply”.

The Guardian quoted a Labour spokesperson saying: “While we do believe action needs to be taken to protect renters and rebalance power, rent controls are not Labour party policy as we remain mindful of the risk they could pose to the availability of rental properties and the harmful impacts any reduction in supply would have on renters”.

2. National Landlords Register

The report proposes the introduction of “annually updated digital National Landlords Register which will provide a reliable source of information about the PRS and enable government to manage and enforce standards in the sector efficiently”.

The National Landlords Register would be “more comprehensive” than the PRS Database in the Renters Reform Bill, and would include “truthful information about themselves, their agents and their properties”, for instance:

  • Data on rents
  • Independently verified evidence of compliance with property and management standards and the new annually updated Decent Homes Standard
  • Independent evidence of property and management compliance (gas safe certificates, electrical tests, etc.)
  • “Regular” submission of a surveyor’s report “demonstrating that the property complies with the PRS Decent Homes Standard. In other words, a Property MOT”
  • Data on the property eg the number of bedrooms, the number of reception rooms

This register would have real teeth. Landlords would be unable to recover rent or bring possession proceedings if they are not registered. Tenants would be able to recover rent paid when the landlord was unregistered by “deducting it from current rent and/or obtaining a rent repayment order from the appropriate court or tribunal”.

3. Register for letting agents and managing agents

There would be a similar registration requirement to the National Landlord Register for Lettings and Managing Agents, and would need to register annually and “provide details about themselves and their businesses”.

Letting Agents would also have a legal responsibility not to advertise or let homes unless they meet the Decent Homes Standard.

However, this falls short of the recommendations made in the 2019 report of the working group into the Regulation of Property Agents, chaired by Lord Best.

4. Security of tenure

Landlords would not be able to regain possession if they wished to sell a property, reversing the new Ground 1A in the Renters Reform Bill. The current (ie pre-Renters Reform Bill) version of Ground 1 would be reinstated so that the landlord could only recover possession if they previously lived in the property as their only or principal home and want to move back.

Tenancy agreements in England should follow the Welsh model for occupation contracts.

>> Related Post: Guide to evicting tenants with the New Section 8

5. Short term lets, temporary accommodation and supported housing

The report states that a Labour government should “discourage PRS landlords from entering the short-term and holiday let market or the more profitable nightly-paid temporary accommodation and supported housing sector”.

They would do this by regulation and “equalising the tax treatment for all forms of private letting”.

6. Annually updated Decent Homes Standard guarantee

The landlord or managing agent would need to guarantee they had “undertaken the most recent training course and passed a test which demonstrates they understand their Decent Homes Standard, public health and other obligations”. The PRS Decent Homes Standard would require:

  • Up to date gas, electrical, fire safety and other certificates that guarantee the safety of a home
  • Minimum requirement of an EPC C rating “at the earliest opportunity, meaning that landlords must hit this rating to be able to let out a property”.
  • Meeting an affordable warmth standard
  • Meeting a ventilation standard
  • Meeting a standard for internet connectivity
  • Meeting an accessibility standard which fully complies with Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

7. Renters’ Charter

A new “Renters’ Charter” which would:

  • Set out the new rights tenants have, including security of tenure, rent stabilisation and the Decent Homes Standards.
  • Give tenants the right to a ‘Tenants’ Charter Advice Pack’ which explains their rights and obligations at the beginning of a tenancy (ie similar to the existing How to Rent Checklist).

8. Landlord Code of Conduct

The Landlord Code of Conduct would provide a “helpful guide to landlords about their rights and responsibilities. It must detail the required standards that need to be met”.

Final thoughts

Private renting is likely to be a key issue at the election, particularly in the “Red Wall” of around 40 constituencies in “the Conservative heartlands” where private renters are “set to be decisive at the ballot box”.

As the government did not fulfil its manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21, with the Renters Reform Bill failing to make it onto the statute book by the election, Labour would be starting afresh, with a new Bill. It remains to be seen if Labour decides to continue rental reform along the lines it proposed in the Report Stage of the Commons, or even in Stephen Cowan’s report.

Watch this space. I will keep it updated.

>> Related Post: What are the political parties’ policies on private renting?

Last updated: 25 May 2024

Angela Rayner and Matthew Pennycook in the debate for the Renters Reform Bill

5 thoughts on “General Election: What are Labour’s policies for the Private Rented Sector?”

  1. Landlords would not be able to regain possession if they wished to sell a property. Ground 1 would be amended so that the landlord could only recover possession if “they used to live in the property as their only or principal home and wants to move back”.

    I am I understanding this ?
    So a landlord could not sell any btl until a tenant vacated, ? so effectively a tenant controls this.
    I could not say to a tenant “ you have a 12 month ats and then I will be selling “ ?
    It so seems absurd and very unfair

  2. Reading this makes me want to sell all of my houses very quickly. That would mean a lot of people left looking for another home that doesn’t exist.

    I’m trying my best to hold on as a landlord and due to EPC C I have been trying to sell a few to tenants over the last year but they can’t buy.

    Always done my best to increase EPC’s but not willing to spend 15k to save £10 per year.

    I’m sure Labor will get in next year and that if policies like this are implemented, there will be a lot of houses for sale and landlords won’t be buying them.

    When will the government realize that they are responsible for making people homeless. I guess they don’t care so long as they can show renters that they are taxing landlords. The media is all over this and paint landlords as evil, rich and money grabbing.

    When the penny finally drops, it will be too late and the BTR companies will only be taking the best tenants. Anyone on benefits will be left out in a tent when PRS landlords sell up.

  3. If these proposals were enacted, it would be the biggest assault on property rights we have ever seen and would drive a further exodus of landlords from the PRS. It’s clear that politicians want to ‘institutionalise’ the PRS sector and these proposals mirror recent comments from the Head of L&G’s asset management business, which basically said that private landlords should get out of the sector and leave it to the ‘big boys’. I get very irritated, to put it mildly, that landlords are treated as punchbags for politicians and much of the media. I agree there are some bad landlords, but equally there are some very bad tenants but we hardly ever hear about that! In my view, the balance is already far too much in the tenant’s favour, something which bad tenants are only too happy to exploit.

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