Now that the dust is beginning to settle after Labour revealed its mixed bag of rental reforms, we would like to suggest a few of our own…
Ed Miliband has called for a standard tenancy of three years but the obvious question is why should there be a ‘standard’ at all? Presumably he believes tenants do not have enough security. But this is based on an utterly false belief that landlords don’t want long-term tenancies (and that all tenants do). The reality is that landlords see buy to let as a long term investment. Consequently, if they find good tenants, they will want them to stick around. Since the main focus is on the capital growth of the property, the vast majority will much prefer a long term tenant paying a fair, average rent over the instability and costs associated with always trying to get the most rent.
But of course every situation is different and any reforms should reflect that. The essential change should be greater flexibility: if a landlord and tenant want to agree a 6 month tenancy, let them, but if they want a 5 year tenancy, that should be possible too. Of course, reforms would have to target mortgage restrictions on tenancy length to achieve this.
If fees are removed from tenants and the full onus placed on landlords, it will probably only lead to higher initial rents or landlords recouping the costs from the tenant elsewhere. The real reform needs to be in establishing what agents can fairly charge for. For example, renewal fees are often very high but entail very little work on the agent’s side. And it cannot be right to ‘charge at both ends’ (charge both landlord and tenant for one service). Of course, agents need to make money to operate but hidden and excessive charges are not the way to go about doing this. Once these are eliminated it will be much clearer who should foot the bill.
Build more homes. It’s that simple, and should be at the heart of any plan to reform housing in the UK. Ed Miliband singularly failed to address it in any way, shape or form but it’s the only solution. It may be a political nightmare but someone needs to bite the bullet. There are many misconceptions about construction of homes in this country. As highlighted in the Independent, one survey showed that over half the country believes 50 per cent of England is ‘built-up’ when the true figure is just over 10 per cent. And in the past four years the government has spent more than 20 times as much subsiding rents as on building new homes. It is time to face up to this huge problem.