While the Conservatives have argued for a hands off, light touch approach to renting regulation, based on voluntary codes of conduct, both Labour and the Lib Dems are calling for tighter regulation of the private rented sector (PRS).
According to the Financial Times newspaper, quoting interviews conducted by online estate agents Rightmove, there is a wide gulf between them on renting.
David Cameron has said that while standards and landlords’ professionalism need to keep improving, the risk is that more red tape and unnecessary regulation would make life worse for tenants.
“That is why we’ve been very careful to strike a balance – and I believe we’re doing so,” he commented, citing their Model Tenancy Agreement to reduce agency fees and [a] new code of practice for landlords to give councils more powers to target “the rogues”.
“Every step of the way we’ve rejected Labour’s calls for rent controls. Why? Because this interference would be disastrous for tenants, with fewer houses to rent, higher monthly payments and poor quality housing,” argues Mr Cameron.
“We’ve seen the proof with Labour’s calls for energy price controls – they actually have the reverse effect of making energy bills more expensive.”
Labour’s Ed Miliband on the other hand has argued that renters need more stability, citing massive rent increases year to year as the main reason.
Mr Milliband has said:
“To combat this we will introduce three-year tenancies with a ceiling on excessive rent increases, though tenants will still be able to give notice when they want.
“We will also ban the letting fees charged by agents to tenants – up to £500 every time someone moves – to us that just looks like a rip-off.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has confirmed that his party led in the coalition’s work to tackle landlords who were not behaving fairly, bringing about new legislating to stop revenge evictions – incorporated in the Deregulation Bill 2015.
The next step, Mr Cleg has said, “is to make sure that renters have more stability – just because you are renting doesn’t mean you don’t want to put down roots, decorate the way you want and feel settled in your home.”
Ed Miliband is also supporting a “Homes for Brits” initiative, as he says that many voters are concerned about overseas investors buying “flats to leave” or piggy banks with no intentions of living in them, saying:
“We’ll give councils the power to double council tax on homes left empty for a year. We will also require new homes to be marketed in England first, rather than sold off-plan overseas.”