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General Election: Analysis of the political parties’ policies for landlords

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Now that all of the political parties have published their manifestos for the 2024 General Election, what are they actually promising for the private rented sector?

None of the parties has reform to the private rented sector front and centre of their manifesto. It took a word search of “evict” and “landlord” to find Labour’s policies on pages 78-79 in the section on breaking down barriers to opportunity and family security to find policies relating to the private rented sector.

In this post, I start with an overview of what we know about the manifesto commitments of each party for the regulation of landlords and the rights of renters, before going into the polities of each party in detail. I finish with an explanation why the private renting promises to be such an important issue in the election.

I’ll keep this blog post updated as the General Election campaign.

Last updated: 13 June 2024

>> Related Post: General Election: Where the main political parties stand on leasehold reform

>> Show Notes: Good Landlording – What the manifestos say about rental reform

Overview of key policies for private landlords of the main political parties

Here’s an overview of the key policies for the private rented sector of each of the 5 main political parties in England for the 2024 General Election, as set out in their manifestos:

PolicyConservativeLabourLib DemsGreenReform
Abolish Section 21YesYesYesYesNo
Reverse Section 24NoNoNoNoYes
Rent controlsNoChallenge
“unreasonable
rent increases”
??Yes: 35% local
net pay
No
EPC C?NoBy 2030C in 2028Yes?
Abolish fixed termsYes?3 yr
fixed term
YesNo
Compulsory licensingNo: PRS Database?YesYes?
Landlord registerPRS Database?YesYes?
Policies for private rented sector of the political parties for 2024 election in England at a glance
(based on information available on 13 June 2024)

>> Related Post: What happens to the abolition of Section 21 now?

The policies of the 5 main political parties for private landlords and renters

What the Conservative 2024 Election Manifesto has for private landlords

We will pass a Renters Reform Bill that will deliver fairness in the rental market for landlords and renters alike. We will deliver the court reforms necessary to fully abolish Section 21 and strengthen other grounds for landlords to evict private tenants guilty of anti-social behaviour. […]

We will introduce a two-year temporary Capital Gains Tax relief for landlords who sell to their existing tenants.

We will complete the process of leasehold reform, to improve the lives of over four million leaseholders. We will cap ground rents at £250, reducing them to peppercorn over time. We will end the misuse of forfeiture so leaseholders don’t lose their property and capital unfairly and make it easier to take up commonhold.

We will ensure councils have the powers they need to manage the uncontrolled growth of holiday lets, which can cause nuisance to local residents and a hollowing out of communities.

The Conservative Party published its manifesto for the 2024 election on 11 June, and makes a commitment to passing “a” (not “the”) Renters Reform Bill, which had been dropped in the run up to the election, despite it being a commitment in their 2019 manifesto.

However, whereas the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto referred to a “better deal for renters”, the rhetoric in the 2024 manifesto is softer, and more landlord friendly, promising to “deliver fairness in the rental market for landlords and renters alike”.

It is very specific about delivering court reform to “fully abolish Section 21” and to strengthen “other grounds” for landlords to evict private tenants guilty of anti-social behaviour. (See the blog post How to manage anti-social behaviour for an explanation of the Renters Reform Bill proposals for anti-social behaviour).

For landlords of the 38% of properties in the private rented sector that are leasehold, the 2024 manifesto also promises to “complete the process of leasehold reform”, by capping ground rents at £250, “reducing them to peppercorn over time”, ending the “misuse of forfeiture” and making it “easier to take up commonhold.”

As a reminder, these are the commitments from the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto on rental and leasehold reform:

We will bring in a Better Deal for Renters, including abolishing ‘no fault’ evictions and only requiring one ‘lifetime’ deposit which moves with the tenant. This will create a fairer rental market: if you’re a tenant, you will be protected from revenge evictions and rogue landlords, and if you’re one of the many good landlords, we will strengthen your rights of possession.

[…]

We will continue with our reforms to leasehold including implementing our ban on the sale of new leasehold homes, restricting ground rents to a peppercorn, and providing necessary mechanisms of redress for tenants

>> Related Post: The 10 key changes in the Renters Reform Bill

The Labour Party’s manifesto pledges for private landlords, renters and leasehold

The Labour Party finally published its election manifesto on 13 June 2024.

Here are the key parts of Labour’s manifesto commitments:

Security also means having a secure roof over your head. That is not the case for too many renting their homes privately. Labour will legislate where the Conservatives have failed, overhauling the regulation of the private rented sector. We will immediately abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, prevent private renters being exploited and discriminated against, empower them to challenge unreasonable rent increases, and take steps to decisively raise standards, including extending ‘Awaab’s Law’ to the private sector. […]

We will enact the package of Law Commission proposals on leasehold enfranchisement, right to manage and commonhold. We will take further steps to ban new leasehold flats and ensure commonhold is the default tenure. We will tackle unregulated and unaffordable ground rent charges. We will act to bring the injustice of ‘fleecehold’ private housing estates and unfair maintenance costs to an end. […]

We will ensure homes in the private rented sector meet minimum energy efficiency standards by 2030, saving renters hundreds of pounds per year. Nobody will be forced to rip out their boiler as a result of our plans.

Angela Rayner also promised on 21 May 2024 that Labour would prioritise the building of more social housing, and the building of “next generation New Towns”. This is reflected in the manifesto with a commitment to prioritise the building of new social rented homes and better protect our existing stock by reviewing the increased right to buy discounts introduced in 2012 and increasing protections on newly-built social housing.

>> Related Post: What are Labour’s policies for the Private Rented Sector?

Liberal Democrats’ policies for the private rented sector in the 2024 election

The Liberal Democrats’ published their manifesto for the 2024 General Election on 10 June, which contains the following that is of relevance to landlords:

Housing

Liberal Democrats know that a home is a necessity and the base on which people build their lives. So we will ensure that everyone can access housing that meets their needs.

Yet, in Britain today, many people cannot afford to buy or rent a home of good quality where they live. Too many people live in housing so poor it damages their health […]

Liberal Democrats are committed to tackling these housing failures head-on by: […]

* Delivering a fair deal for renters by immediately banning no-fault evictions, making three-year tenancies the default, and creating a national register of licensed landlords.

* Abolishing residential leaseholds and capping ground rents to a nominal fee, so that everyone has control over their property. […]

In addition we will:

* Remove dangerous cladding from all buildings, while ensuring that leaseholders do not have to pay a penny towards it.

* Help people who cannot afford a deposit to own their own homes by introducing a new Rent to Own model for social housing where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years.

Climate Change and Energy

We will:

* Make homes warmer and cheaper to heat with a ten-year emergency upgrade programme, starting with free insulation and heat pumps for those on low incomes, and ensure that all new homes are zero-carbon.

[…] Reintroducing requirements for landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties to EPC C or above by 2028.
 

Their manifesto is similar to, but does not go as far as their Policy Paper 155 for the 2023 Conference: Tackling the Housing Crisis. In that paper, they deemed the PRS to be “fundamentally unfair and under-regulated”.

Here are the policies which did not make it into their manifesto.

  • National licensing system for landlords and holiday lets.
  • Minimum standards system under which landlords would need to demonstrate “they can deliver a good service”. It would be extended to property management companies and agents. Existing landlords would be given 3 years to meet the standards. New landlords would have to meet them before they could start. There’s no detail in the policy paper on how landlords would be able to show they deliver a good service. Key performance indicators? Our friend “reasonableness” again? This is not in the manifesto.
  • Improve security of tenure by increasing the default tenancy from 1 to 3 years. This is included in their manifesto.
  • Rent controls, which they call “rent smoothing”. Landlords would only be able to increase rent by the Bank of England Base Rate during the contract period. They consider this to be more relevant to landlords’ costs than inflation. Although the Base Rate has historically been lower than inflation, as of June 2024, the Base Rate of 5.25% is higher than the consumer price inflation in the 12 months to April 2024 of 2.3%. This is not in their manifesto.
  • Empowerment of Local Authorities. They would give councils additional powers and resources, and “ensure that councils have the expertise and resources to prevent bad landlords and tenants”. This is missing from their manifesto.
  • Social housing. The Lib Dems would build 150,000 social homes each year, and give councils the power to borrow to build. They would also build 10 garden cities to increase supply of housing, and reform the Land Compensation Act “so that councils can acquire land at fair values”.

What are Reform UK’s policies for private landlords and social housing?

Reform UK’s policies for private landlords on their website are scant on detail, but are ostensibly landlord-friendly, and would give priority to British nationals for social housing:

Scrap the 2019 Tax Changes for Landlords.
The tax system should encourage smaller landlords into the rental markets. Not penalise them.

Abolish the Renters’ (Reform) Bill.
Existing legislation was adequate to address bad practices. Instead, we will boost the monitoring, appeals and enforcement process.

Reform Social Housing Law.
Prioritise local people and those who have paid into the system. In parts of the UK almost half of all social housing is occupied by someone born overseas. Foreign nationals must go to the back of the queue. Not the front.

The reference to the 2019 tax changes is to the notorious Section 24 originally introduced by George Osborne in the 2015 Finance Act, which restricts the amount of mortgage tax relief that unincorporated landlords can claim.

The Renters Reform Bill does not need to be “abolished” as it fell when parliament was dissolved without the Bill receiving Royal Assent.

In order for “foreign nationals to go to the back of the queue”, primary legislation would be needed to repeal Section 9 of the Equality Act 2010 to enable direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of “nationality”, which is part of the “Race” protected characteristic.

Green Party’s policies for renters and landlords

man installing loft insulation

Our Fair Deal for Renters

The Green Party released their 2024 election manifesto on 12 June, and it included “Our Fair Deal for Renters”, to address “unaffordable rents and constant insecurity”.

Their policies regarding the private rented sector include:

  • Rent controls.
    • The Greens would introduce rent controls on a local authority basis “so local authorities can control rents if the rental market is unaffordable for many local people”.
    • Although not mentioned in their manifesto, their Housing Policy, as updated in April 2024, referred to a “Living Rent”, whereby median local rents would take up no more than 35% of the local median take-home pay. According to the English Housing Survey, on average, private renters spend 33% of their gross income on rent.
    • They believe these controls would “strike a balance between affordability and predictability for tenants, and the landlords’ need to invest in their homes and make a reasonable profit”.
  • Security of tenure.
    • They refer in their manifesto to a new stable rental tenancy and an end to no-fault evictions” so tenants are secure in their homes and don’t have their lives turned upside down on the whim of their landlords.
    • Not much detail is in their manifesto, but their Housing Policy refers to “phasing out” assured shorthold tenancies and replacing with a “Stable Rental Tenancy” which would become periodic, with tenants being able to terminate them with two months’ notice.
    • As well as abolishing Section 21, their policy says the landlord would only be able to end the tenancy in order to sell the property (with proof of purchase), to move in or where there’s been a “serious breach of the contract”.
  • Energy efficiency improvements.
    • The Green Party’s manifesto says they would introduce a “tenants’ right to demand energy efficiency improvements”.
    • They would also “Elected Greens will “push for a local-authority-led, street-by-street retrofit programme to insulate our homes, provide clean heat and start to adapt our buildings to more extreme climate conditions”, spending “£29bn over the next five years to insulate homes to an EPC B standard or above as part of a ten-year programme”.
  • Private residential tenancy boards
    • These boards would provide an “informal, cheap and speedy forum” for resolving disputes before they reach a tribunal.
    • It’s not clear if this is a redress scheme or an ombudsman system.
  • New housing.
    • The Greens would ensure that all new homes “meet Passivhaus or equivalent standards” and house builders include solar panels and heat pumps on all new homes, where appropriate.

Other policies that are the Green Party’s Housing Policy, as updated in April 2024, but aren’t in the manifesto are. These are the key policies of the Green Party for tenants and landlords:

  • Housing standards. The Greens would “toughen up” the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), ensure councils dedicate “adequate resources to proactively enforce it”.
  • National landlord licensing scheme. Local authorities would enforce a national licensing scheme with “punitive penalties for landlords who fail to gain a license or meet the HHSRS requirements”.
  • Renters’ unions. The Green Party would support the development of a “Tenants’ Movement to provide a voice for tenants at a local and national level”. They would also with promote and fund the formation and development of “renters’ unions” (undefined).
  • Letting agents. The Green Party would “bring lettings agents under the definition of an estate agency and give the Office of Fair Trading the ability to ban agents who act improperly”.

Why reform of private renting is important in the General Election

parliament in westminster will determing the new policies for private renting

Although private renting hasn’t been a big election issue so far, perhaps surprisingly, here are some statistics which show the numbers of renters and landlords, and their respective influence.

How many renters are in England?

Government figures estimate that renters comprise almost one fifth (4.6 million) of households in England. There isn’t an exact number of individual renters, but estimates range from 9 million (The Times) to 11 million (Shelter).

At around 10 million people, taking the mid-point, renters comprise a sizeable proportion of the 41 million voters in England.

Why the “Rent Wall” should be key in the General Election

MRP polling carried out out by Stack Data Strategy on behalf of Shelter in September 2022 identified what Shelter terms a “Rent Wall” (as opposed to a “Red Wall”). These are 38 constituencies in “the Conservative heartlands” where private renters are “set to be decisive at the ballot box”. They have a higher density of private renters than the average, and have linked their voting intentions to housing policy. These constituencies are mostly in London and the South. Examples include Milton Keynes North, Hastings and Rye, Harrow East, Reading West and Gloucester.

38 Degrees refers to renters having “the potential to be kingmakers” in the next general election.

How many landlords are there in England?

As well as the Rent Wall, there are around 3 million landlords in England. HMRC statistics published in October 2022 said 2.7 million sole trader landlords declared at least £1,000 income from renting property in 2020-2021. The HMRC figure doesn’t include those landlords who rent property through a limited company, estimated to number 300,000. It’s also a little out of date, and won’t include those landlords who have sold up since April 2021. This is how I reach estimated total number of landlords in England of around 3 million.

Over 90% of these private landlords will be subject to the punitive tax regime (Section 24) brought in by George Osborne in 2015. Section 24 restricts the ability of individual landlords to set off their financing costs against income tax purposes.

>> Related Post: What landlords need to know about Section 24 and the taxation of mortgage interest

How many MPs are landlords in England?

According to research from 38 Degrees, 87 MPs declared at least £10,000 in rental income in England in the last year. This includes almost one in five Conservative MPs and five members of the cabinet.

Of the 87 MPs who are landlords in England, 68 are Conservatives, 16 are Labour, 2 are Liberal Democrats and one is a member of the SNP.

What are renters’ key concerns about renting in 2024?

percentage of unsafe properties in the private rented sector in the English Housing Survey

Times are hard for renters in 2024, with poor supply, above inflation increases in rent, declining social housing and frozen housing benefits.

Despite a lot of regulation (including the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System), the English Housing Survey published in July 2023 estimated that 14% of private rented properties in 2021 (615,000 properties) had at least one Category 1 hazard.  This means properties which pose an imminent risk to health.

Dissatisfaction among renters about the state of repair of their rented properties is fairly widespread, according to the 2024 Renters’ Pulse Q1 Survey by Marks Out Of Tenancy. 31% of the renters surveyed reported that the quality of repairs and maintenance had deteriorated in the last 3 months.

The survey shows that almost half are increasing concerns over their security of tenure, underlining the importance to renters of the abolition of Section 21, with 43% reporting it had deteriorated. Rising rents are another key area of concern.

>> Related Post: Guide for Renters

>> Related Post: What the English Housing Survey tells us about the PRS

What are landlords’ concerns in 2024?

The quarterly NRLA Landlord Confidence Index published on 29 May 2024 showed landlord confidence to be at 38.9, down from 43.0 at the end of 2023. It is higher than the 31.6% recorded in Q1 2022, at the start of the Covid pandemic. 31% of the landlords surveyed were planning to sell, with only 10% planning to buy.

The key areas of concern for landlords included the Renters Reform Bill (which has since been dropped) and punitive taxation (Section 24), together with concerns about the future of the private rented sector.

>> Related Post: Is Buy-to-Let still worth it in 2024?

Final thoughts

Given how the all-important “Rent Wall” is supposed to be, it is surprising that reforms in the private rented sector seem to have taken a back seat in the election, with the policies found in the outer reaches of the manifestos.

Although the 2024 Conservative Manifesto refers to “a Renters Reform Bill”, it does not specifically mention any of the provisions other than the abolition of Section 21, which will be contingent on court reform, and changes to Section 8. It remains to be seen if the other provisions will remain in the Bill.

The Greens support rent controls, and all, apart from the Conservatives, support having EPC C as a minimum for private rented properties. Both the Greens and the Liberal Democrats propose improving enforcement and social housing. Neither specifically discuss encouraging investment in the PRS.

If there’s a Labour coalition government with either the Lib Dems or the Green Party, it’s possible their policies for the PRS will influence Labour policy.

Watch this space. I update this post regularly.

Last updated: 13 June 2024

sign of a polling station and text saying what the political parties say about rental reform and policies for private renting

6 thoughts on “General Election: Analysis of the political parties’ policies for landlords”

  1. First off I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I’ve had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Many thanks!

  2. maribelmarston

    Thanks for finally writing about “What are the political parties’ policies on private renting?” Loved it!

  3. georgianacrommel

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  4. “good landlords, we will strengthen your rights of possession.” Cons.

    That’s another promise not kept as the key influence on possession is the slow and costly court system that doesn’t cope with the existing Section 8 workload never mind a post RRB Section 21 back fill workload, too.

  5. Great blog again, really appreciate the time and effort you put into these 🥰.
    Reform Party is the one for me.

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