Great news for thousands of residents across Stockton South, who like me rent their home privately, as today Ed Miliband MP unveils plans for sweeping reforms of the private rented housing sector which will help millions of households caught in the cost-of-living crisis.
The measures will give families greater security with three-year tenancies and predictable rents which prevent excessive rises, as well as saving households up to £500 when they move into their homes.
“One of the biggest causes of the cost of living crisis in our country is the price of renting or buying a home. People simply can’t afford it, they’re priced out, saving for a deposit year after year, decade after decade, or having to look for somewhere to live further and further away from where they go to work or where the kids have always gone to school.
“A Labour government will make sure that Britain builds 200,000 more homes a year by the end of the next Parliament so that more families can fulfil their dream of home ownership.
“But generation rent is a generation that has been ignored for too long. Nine million people are living in rented homes today, over a million families, and over two million children. That is why a Labour government will take action to deliver fairer deal for them too.
“Labour local authorities have already been taking the lead with a register of landlords to drive up standards. But we need to do more. If you buy your home, most estate agent will not charge you fees, but those who rent are given no protection and they get charged up to £500 just for signing a tenancy agreement. We will legislate to ban these charges by letting agents.
When I rented my home in Ingleby Barwick I “only” had to pay £100 as a signing-up fee to the Estate Agents, because there was a special offer on, this was on top of the deposit and first month’s rent, it is a lot for people to find.
“And we need to deal with the terrible insecurity of Britain’s private rental market as well. Many tenancies last just six months with families at risk of being thrown out after that with just two months’ notice with no reason. Some are told to accept huge rent rises or face eviction. It breeds instability and that is bad for tenants, bad for families, bad for landlords, and bad for our society.
"So today I can announce, the next Labour government will legislate to make three year tenancies the standard in the British private rented sector to giving people who rent the certainty they need. These new longer-term tenancies will limit the amount that rents can rise by each year too - so landlords know what they can expect each year and tenants can’t be surprised by rents that go through the roof.
Thankfully my landlord is excellent and has promised to let me stay pretty much for as long as I like but lots of tenants face upheaval and uncertainty when they can be asked to vacate without warning.
"This is Labour’s fair deal for rented housing in Britain: long-term tenancies and stable rents so that people can settle down, know where the kids will go to school, know their home will still be there for them tomorrow.”
Introduce long term three-year tenancies:
Tenancies would start with a 6 month probation period at the end of which the landlord would be able to terminate the contract if the tenant failed the probation (e.g. if there are rent arrears or anti-social behaviour). After the 6 months, the tenancy would automatically run for a further 2.5 years
Tenants would be able to terminate contracts after the first 6 months with one month notice as they can now.
But landlords would be able to terminate contracts with 2 months’ notice only if they have good reason:
The tenant falls into rent arrears, is guilty of anti-social behaviour or breaches their tenancy agreement
The landlord wants to sell the property, needs the property for their own or family use
The landlord plans to refurbish or change the use of the property.
Landlords would not be able to terminate tenancies simply to put rents up.
There would be a provision that allowed landlords to enter into shorter contracts where they are contractually obliged to do so as part of a buy to let mortgage entered into before the start of this new legislation.
There would also be provision for new tenants like students or business people on temporary contracts to request shorter-term tenancies subject to the landlord’s agreement.
Landlords and tenants will set initial rents based on market value and conduct a rent review no more often than once a year.
Rents could still be reviewed upwards, downwards or stay the same, subject to market conditions.
But the legislation would place an upper ceiling on any rent increases to prevent excessive rises. This would be based on a benchmark such as average market rents. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors is already examining what an appropriate benchmark might be.
Ban letting agents’ fees for tenants:
Landlords would continue to pay charges just as people selling houses pay fees to estate agents. But letting agents would be banned from charging fees of up to £500 to tenants.
This will save people entering into a new tenancy an average of £350.