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The five key policies for renters set out in Labour-commissioned report – LabourList

A Labour-commissioned review of the private rented sector has set out recommendations including the creation of a National Landlords Register to enforce standards, abolishing no-fault evictions and the use of “rent stabilisation” measures.

The report – commissioned by then Shadow Housing Secretary Lisa Nandy in early 2023 and led by Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan – will be launched on Wednesday at an event organised by the Labour Housing Group, one of the party’s affiliated socialist societies.

Nandy once said the report – which has been seen by LabourList – would “drive forward” plans for a new renters’ charter, but some sources now emphasise its distance from party policy.

Though commissioned by Labour, the report’s authors stress that it is an “independent report” and that the conclusions reached “are solely ours and in no way reflect the views of the people we interviewed, the Labour Party, the shadow cabinet or any other individuals or organisation”.

However, Cowan said the report was “an evidence-based discussion document” that its authors “hope will provide food for thought for the shadow team as Labour prepares for the next election”.

The report says it “does not seek to offer a comprehensive suite of economic solutions”, instead focusing on “recommending a framework that could improve renters’ rights and raise standards across the sector”. It states that its recommendations “rest” on the following five points:

1. Rental sector crisis can only be solved by a ‘holistic approach’

“First, we recognise that the crisis in the private rented sector (PRS) can only be solved by a holistic approach to fixing all parts of the housing market.

“Labour will inherit a broken housing market so that will be challenging. It will require significant reform to planning and land development policies to increase the supply of genuinely affordable homes to rent and to buy.

“That is why Labour’s proposed reforms of the planning and compulsory purchase compensation codes are essential.

“Measures must be taken that urgently increase the supply of social housing so low-income and homeless households do not have to rely on the PRS. Social housing should return to being the second largest sector in the housing market, with home ownership being the first.”

2. National Landlords Register ‘essential’ to enforce standards

“Second, a comprehensive, annually updated National Landlords Register (NLR) is the essential mechanism for managing and enforcing standards in the PRS.

“The NLR should legally require landlords to register themselves, provide details of their properties and rents and demonstrate compliance with an annually updated PRS Decent Homes Standard.

“The NLR should also oblige landlords to submit independent evidence of property and management compliance (gas safe certificates, electrical tests, etc.) and include a responsibility to undertake and submit a surveyor’s report regularly.”

3. To ensure security for tenants, no-fault evictions must go

“Third, tenants must have security. No-fault evictions must go, including the back door no-fault evictions introduced by the Conservatives’ renters (reform) bill.”

4. Rent stabilisation measures ‘essential’, rather than rent controls

“Fourth, ‘first generation’ rent controls freezing or cutting rents will have a detrimental effect on the private rented sector (PRS). But ‘third generation’ rent stabilisation measures are essential and should be used to limit increases within tenancies to the lower of local wage growth and CPI.”

The report recommends a model of rent stabilisation under which only annual increases would be allowed. It also concluded that tenants should be given four months’ notice of increases, rent review clauses should be scrapped and a single system should be used in both England and Wales.

5. Measures to stop landlords moving to other sectors

“Fifth, measures to stop PRS landlords moving to other sectors such as the short-term and holiday let sector or the more profitable nightly-paid temporary accommodation and supported housing sector must be introduced to preserve the stock of homes available for long-term let.”

Cowan: ‘Practical measures to professionalise the sector’

Cowan said: “The commission was set up to make independent proposals that can contribute to Labour’s ambition to improve the PRS for renters. We’ve offered an evidence-based discussion document which we hope will provide food for thought for the shadow team as Labour prepares for the next election.”

The council leader argued that “there are some excellent landlords who go above and beyond” for their tenants but “there are far too many who rent out sub-standard, unsafe homes with little understanding of their obligations”.

He added: “The lower end of the sector is blighted with very low standards, high evictions and rogue landlords and agents. Our report offers a practical series of measures to professionalise the sector.

“These measures would provide renters with greater security and provide good landlords with the stability they need to run their businesses.”

On the proposed National Landlords Register, the council leader said: “Renters have a right to know that their home will be safe and of good standard. And good landlords have a right to compete in a market where everyone plays by the same rules. The register will enable those things to happen efficiently and quickly.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “While we do believe action needs to be taken to protect renters and rebalance power, rent controls are not Labour Party policy as we remain mindful of the risk they could pose to the availability of rental properties and the harmful impacts any reduction in supply would have on renters.

“We look forward to the publication of Stephen Cowan’s independent report and his contribution to the debate on improving the private rented sector.

“In government, Labour would act where the Conservatives fail to ensure fairness and security for renters, immediately abolishing Section 21, ending tenant bidding wars and extending Awaab’s law to the private rented sector.”

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