United Kingdom

General election 2024 – what’s at stake for the PRS?

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The general election is just two weeks away (4 July), and the manifestos are out. What private rented sector policies can we expect from the main political parties?

Rental reform to continue after election – no matter who wins

The Conservative government’s Renters (Reform) Bill was killed off by the end of the parliamentary session, but plans to revive it are contained within the Conservative manifesto – to deliver “fairness in the rental market for landlords and renters alike”. That would mean taking the finalised bill through the full parliamentary process again, which could take months for a new government with other priorities.

Some details could however be changed this time around: without offering details, Conservative manifesto says the party 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”.

By contrast, other measures from the original bill, such as ending fixed-term tenancies and making it easier for tenants to keep pets, aren’t mentioned.

As expected, Labour’s election pledges contain more renter-friendly commitments than the Conservatives’ – but offer little for landlords. The party plans to “immediately abolish” Section 21 evictions, give tenants powers to challenge “unreasonable” rent increases, and raise standards in the PRS. This would include extending the application of Awaab’s Law beyond the social rented sector, which gives landlords a time limit to repair damp and mould, and requiring privately rented homes to meet an (unspecified) energy efficiency target by 2030.

The Liberal Democrats also want to immediately scrap Section 21. On top of that, they plan to introduce three-year standard terms for tenants, create a national landlord register, and bring all PRS homes up to an EPC C rating by 2028.

Despite being part of the coalition that brought in temporary rent controls in Scotland, the Scottish National Party barely mentions the private rented sector in its manifesto. The chief housing policy they want is an annual uplift to Local Housing Allowance.

In fact, rental reform along the lines of the Renters (Reform) Bill has been adopted widely in party manifestos. The only major party that isn’t planning to scrap Section 21 is Reform, which says existing legislation goes far enough. Instead, it plans to beef up councils’ enforcement capabilities – and, in a move that might win some landlord votes, wants to roll back Section 24 tax changes, allowing landlords to deduct mortgage interest from their taxable income again.

Despite arguments about rent controls before the election, this topic is almost nowhere to be found in party manifestos. The only ones promising to restrict rent increases are Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, who currently have four seats in Parliament between them.

Not just rental reform

Rental reform will have an enormous impact on the private rented sector and the 20% of UK households that rent their homes, but it received a lot less attention from politicians than policies around the supply, purchase and ownership of homes. All the major parties announced significant plans, many of which will also have real impact on the PRS:

  • The Conservatives plan to keep the Stamp Duty threshold for first-time buyers at £425,000. Other plans include a new Help to Buy scheme for new-build properties, and first capping, then reducing ground rents. The Tories also want a two-year Capital Gains Tax relief scheme for landlords who sell to their tenants – a move that could encourage landlords to sell and reduce supply in the PRS. The party’s housebuilding target is 1.6 million homes in five years.
  • Labour plans to build 1.5 million homes in five years, and targets 70% home ownership – up from around 60% now. The party is also planning to build a lot more social housing, so the move would likely have to come at the expense of the PRS. They plan to restrict ground rents and leasehold service charges.
  • The Lib Dems want to build 380,000 homes a year (1.9 million in five years), including 150,000 social homes. The party’s plans for leasehold reform go further, abolishing leasehold tenure and capping ground rents. And it wants to give local councils the power to charge a 500% council tax premium on second homes.

With so much at stake, property industry stakeholders will be watching the election with interest. We’ll take another look at the winners’ housing policies in the next Rent Report.

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