Election special: What the manifestos say about rental reform


What might a new government have in store for landlords in England? In this week’s episode of Good Landlording, Richard Jackson and Suzanne Smith discuss what the 2024 election manifestos actually say about landlords, rental reform and energy efficiency.

As with everything on this podcast, our analysis is practical, measured and objective, to help landlords understand what a new government may bring.

In this episode, we look at each of the key policies that matter to landlords, which includes the proposed reforms of each of the main parties for the private rented sector and the rules on energy efficiency for rental properties.

Next week we discuss what the election manifestos say about leasehold reform, an issue for landlords who own the 38% of properties in the private rented sector that are leasehold: Election special: Manifesto pledges on leasehold reform.

houses in the prs

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Context of the general election for landlords

With the controversy generated by the Renters Reform Bill, dropped shortly before the election, it had seemed likely that rental reform would be front and centre in the election campaign. Particularly because the so-called “Rent Wall” (as opposed to a “Red Wall”) of 38 constituencies in “the Conservative heartlands” where there’s a high density of private renters was expected to be key.

However, rental reform has been in the outer reaches of all of the election manifestos and, surprisingly, has barely been discussed to date in the big election set pieces.

Rental reform is in the manifestos, but it’s not something that any of the political parties have been focusing on.

In this podcast episode, we focus on what the parties have said in their manifestos, and try to interpret what it might mean. It is the second of two episodes on the election to date, the first being GL #8: What the General Election means for landlords.

>> Blog post: Analysis of the political parties’ policies for landlords

Would anyone reverse Section 24 (mortgage tax relief restriction)?

Unfortunately for unincorporated landlords, none of the major, established political parties mention restoring full mortgage tax relief for sole trader landlords, which George Osborne restricted in his post-2015 election budget. Reform UK, on the other hand, states in its manifesto that it would bring back full mortgage tax relief.

Is there a consensus on abolishing Section 21?

Yes. All of the parties, apart from Reform UK, would abolish Section 21 “no fault” evictions. Many were expecting the Conservatives to quietly drop this provision in the Renter’s Reform Bill, as they got such a mauling from their backbench MPs when it was going through parliament over the last year.

But the Conservative’s 20204 election manifesto states very clearly that they would “deliver the court’s reforms  necessary to fully abolish  section 21”.  Labour and the LibDems agree, but without this caveat.

>> Blog post: What happens to the abolition of Section 21 now?

Labour’s 2024 manifesto commitments for renter reforms

Rental reform very much takes back seat in Labour’s 2024 election manifesto. It’s not one of the key policies, and is buried on page 79 under the section “Break down the barriers to opportunity” and the subheading “Family security”.

The manifesto states: “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”.

Labour’s manifesto doesn’t say how they would “overhaul” the regulation of the PRS. We all know how complicated it is, with intertwined, overlapping bits of legislation. For instances, landlords can’t find all their repair obligations in one Act. It’s spread over many statutes and regulations, which doesn’t help anyone.

Labour unfortunately don’t give any specifics about what ‘overhauling’ means. It would be great if they did simplify the legislation and make it easier for everyone to understand. Instead, they mention 4 specific policies, and a separate reference to energy efficiency. This could mean a Renters Reform Bill 2.0, or just the policies listed below:

  • “We will immediately abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions”. Technically it’s not possible to do it immediately. What we don’t know is if Labour would introduce any changes to Section 8 to enable landlords to obtain an order for possession if they want to sell the property (Ground 1A in the Renters Reform Bill) or make it easier to prove Anti Social Behaviour. Labour weren’t against this in committee, so it may well be the case that the abolition of Section 21 would go hand in hand with some changes to Section 8, even if those changes aren’t as landlord-friendly as those in the Renters Reform Bill.
  • We will prevent private renters being exploited and discriminated against. This is likely to refer to discrimination against families and benefit claimants, as per the Renters Reform Bill.
  • We will empower them to challenge unreasonable rent increases. Not very clear what this means. Possibly a reference to strengthen the rights tenants already have under Section 14 Housing Act 1988 to appeal against a Section 13 rent increase at a First-tier Tribunal.
  • We will take steps to decisively raise standards, including extending ‘Awaab’s Law’ to the private sector. Awaab Ishak was the little 2 year old who died  in 2020, due to black mould in the flat his parents rented from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing Association. “Awwab Law” is the nickname of Section 42 of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 which introduces an implied term into social housing tenancy agreements to the effect that social landlords are required to fix reported health hazards within specified timeframes. The details haven’t yet been finalised as it was out to consultation when the election was called. Labour want to extend this to the private sector. It’s not clear how they would adapt it for the PRS where landlords usually only have no more than an handful of properties, and don’t have the big maintenance teams you see with social housing.

As well as rental reform, Labour state: “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.”

It doesn’t say whether this means the minimum energy efficiency standards for private rented properties would need to increase to EPC C. It also doesn’t say whether public money would be available for properties where it isn’t economic.

Here are the relevant parts from the Labour Party 2024 Election Manifesto that affect landlords:

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 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.

>> Blog post: What are Labour’s manifesto commitments for the Private Rented Sector?

Conservatives’ policies about landlords in 2024 election manifesto

The Conservatives have two sentences on rental reform in their 2024 manifesto:

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.

The language is more landlord-friendly than the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto, which referred to a “better deal for renters”. They promise to “deliver fairness in the rental market for landlords and renters alike”.

The policies of the Liberal Democrats for rental reform in the 2024 election

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.

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 doesn’t go as far as their 2023 paper: Tackling the Housing Crisis.

Reform UK’s housing policies

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.

Credits

Music: “Paradise Found” by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech. Licensed under Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 License.

What the election manifestos say about the private rented sector

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