You can tell Ed hit the spot with his rental market reforms from the screeching on the right

For once, it would appear that his proposals have been well considered

 

Share

The truth universally acknowledged is that 9 million people in this country currently live in accommodation rented from private landlords. The number has grown dramatically over the past few years as rocketing house prices squeeze more and more out of home ownership. Yet when house prices rise, that is “a good thing”. Perversely, when rents inevitably rise as well, that is “a bad thing”.

Most landlords are good, others are bad. Most tenants are good while others are bad. The relationship can be, or become, fraught. Something must be done.

Ed Miliband has promised to do that something and, for once, it would appear that his proposals have been well considered and thought through, although some of his rhetoric is, well retro. He speaks of

“families at risk of being thrown out after that with just two months’ notice with no reason” and others “told to accept huge rent rises or face eviction”. I would suggest these are rare exceptions proving the rule that most amateur landlords just want a quiet life and a steady income.

But the strongest evidence that Ed’s got it right is the hysterical reactions from the usual suspects.

Rent controls will make us “like Venezuela” shrieked Tory Party chairman Grant Shapps, on whose watch the housing market had gone from drama to crisis. Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute went even further. "Rent control is a stunningly bad idea that could devastate Britain’s cities and clobber renters”, he said. “The only thing worse for cities than rent control is bombing them." Herman Goering, you should be alive this day.

So what did Luftwaffe Ed actually say? “The next Labour government will legislate to make three year tenancies the standard in the British private rented sector to give 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.”

It is hard to fault either of these promises which are, if anything, long overdue. Limiting the rate of rent rises after they have been agreed  – for instance, by linking them to the RPI – is both reasonable and fair to both parties. Longer tenancies are ideal for good tenants and good landlords alike, as rapid changeovers are a big headache for both. The only losers will be letting agents, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people.

The toxic Right-wing reactions – coupled with the lukewarm response from Unite – tell me that Labour has finally got something that 9 million people out there can vote for unreservedly. Given that what Miliband is suggesting is effectively the highly successful German model, renters are unlikely to be scared off by Venezuela. Limiting the amount by which rents can go up is hardly draconian, and landlords will continue to benefit from the sensational rise in the capital value of their asset as well.

As for the longer tenancies, given the get-out clauses (unpaid rent, antisocial behaviour and a genuine need for the landlord to get his property back) they are to be welcomed as long as system is set up to adjudicate these cases quickly and cheaply outside the court system. I have often called for a Housing Tribunal to do this on the Small Claims Court model, Ed. Now is the time.

Even if Labour wins in 2015, it will be at least two years until any of this becomes law. As it will not be applied retroactively, the impact of Ed’s speech may do no more than make buy-to-letters think a little harder about the pros and cons of being a long-term landlord. Which would be no bad thing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tulisa Contostavlos arrives to face drug charges at Southwark Crown Court on July 14, 2014  

Tulisa might have been attacked for being working class, but she still has to take some responsibility

Chloe Hamilton
Is Ed Miliband a natural born leader? Or could he become one?  

Wanted: a leader with the strength to withstand criticism from the media

Steve Richards
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried