Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his shadow housing secretary John Healey have unveiled election plans to clamp down further on buy-to-let landlords as the centre piece of their ‘consumer rights revolution’.
Under the proposals, every private landlord would be required to pay an annual licence fee to their local council if Labour wins the election, the party has said. Failure to abide by the licensing rules, enforced by local councils, would trigger fines of up to £100,000.
Although some local authorities already licence their landlords under what are known as mandatory (HMOs), additional and selective licensing schemes, the majority of buy-to-let landlords throughout the country are not covered by any sort of licensing and do not have to pay an annual fee for each property they let out.
Tories have long argued that blanket licensing of landlords is ineffective and basically a tax on tenants, as most of the cost of the annual fees are passed on to tenants in the form of increased rents.
Labour say they want to require all privately rented homes to meet minimum standards. But the Tories argue that these minimum standards already exist, it is up to the local authorities concerned to properly enforce them, and that many of schemes are just money raising opportunities for councils.
Conservative Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, has called the Croydon Council scheme in his own constituency, which as charging £750 a time for the licences, a “tenant tax”.
Labour’s proposals include requirements for safe wiring and appliances, freedom from damp and vermin infestation, ‘appropriate’ water and sewage facilities, appropriate facilities for preparing and cooking food, and general good repair.
Mr Healey has said:
“Our homes are at the centre of our lives but at the moment renters too often don’t have basic consumer rights that we take for granted in other areas.
“In practice you have fewer rights renting a family home than you do buying a fridge-freezer. As a result, too many are forced to put up with unacceptable, unfit and downright dangerous housing.”
Hitting back for the Tories, Mr Barwell said:
“This is just another misjudged and nonsensical Jeremy Corbyn idea: a town hall ‘tenants’ tax’ that would hit every tenant in the pocket with higher rents.
“We want to help people have good quality housing, which is why we have taken targeted action against the small minority of rogue landlords, without hitting every single home with expensive municipal red tape that will force up costs and reduce supply.”
Labour proposal targets landlords… https://t.co/ClALjKh0dN
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) May 4, 2017