Annual rent-increase cap is focus of Labour campaign launch

 

Mr Miliband said Labour would put a ceiling on excessive rent rises

A future Labour government would cap rent increases in the private sector and scrap letting fees to estate agents to give a "fairer deal" to tenants.

Ed Miliband pledged to end "excessive" rent rises when he launched his party's campaign for local council and European elections.

An "upper limit" on rises will be put in place based on average market rates.

The Labour leader also called for longer, securer tenancies and rental charges of up to £500 to be axed.

But the Conservatives said evidence from other countries suggested rent controls lead to "poorer quality accommodation, fewer homes being rented and ultimately higher rents".

Speaking in Redbridge in London, Mr Miliband said a "cost-of-living crisis" affecting millions of families would be at the centre of Labour's four-week campaign before the polls on 22 May.

Unveiling the party's new slogan, "Hardworking Britain better off", he set out a 10-point "cost-of-living contract" with voters, including the new policy on rent rises and previously announced pledges like the energy bill cap.

'Generation rent'

"People are working harder, for longer, for less, with a few at the top getting the big rewards, insecurity at work for the many. And the promise of Britain, that the next generation should do better than the last, being broken," he said. This was the "defining issue of our age", he added.

A generation has been unable to get on the housing ladder due to spiralling prices and yet the needs of long-term tenants have too often been neglected, he argued.

Analysis

Today's announcement is an attempt to tap into a sense that housing is increasingly unaffordable - whether it is renting or buying.

It is also part of the "rip-off Britain" theme that Ed Miliband has pursued - styling unscrupulous and greedy landlords as a manifestation of so-called predatory capitalism.

So what are the risks for him in pursuing the cost-of-living issue so single-mindedly?

First, the obvious one. Come next year and, with another year of economic growth under the country's belt, people might feel more optimistic than he thinks they will.

Second, his solutions - be they energy freezes or rent controls - make enemies of some powerful interests. Mr Miliband knows this and is attempting to make a virtue of it, but it risks being divisive.

His opponents will do all they can to portray this kind of interventionism as a return to an old-style, left-wing command economy philosophy - Red Ed in tooth and claw!

"Generation rent is a generation that has been left ignored for too long - not under a Labour government," he said.

"Nine million people are living in rented homes today - over a million families. They need a fairer deal."

Too many tenants, Mr Miliband argued, were vulnerable to being asked to leave their properties at short notice under current rules - sometimes because a landlord wanted to put the rent up.

Citing figures suggesting rents have risen by 13% on average since 2010, equivalent to £1,020 a year, Mr Miliband said tenants need greater protection and predictability regarding their monthly outgoings.

Under Labour's plans, landlords and tenants in England would agree initial rents based on "market value" and, thereafter, a review could only be conducted once a year.

While landlords would still be able to increase what they were charging following changes in market conditions, there would be an "upper ceiling" to prevent rent hikes out of step with the overall market.

The threshold would be based on an industry benchmark of average rent rises.

Labour said the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) was "already examining" what an appropriate benchmark to use would be.

Rics denied that it was seeking to impose any specific benchmark on private-sector rent rises, and head of policy Jeremy Blackburn said: "We do not recommend that a government introduce a ceiling on rent increases."

However, the institution has recently consulted on a draft code of conduct for the private rental sector which aims to promote longer-term tenancies by suggesting landlords arrange with tenants that rent will increase at a rate linked to a measure of their choosing - such as inflation, earnings or average market rents.

Tenancy agreements

Estate agents would also no longer be able to charge a letting fee for renting out properties in addition to requiring a deposit and the first month's rent upfront.

Although fees vary widely at the moment, Labour said tenants were having to pay an average of £355 each time they moved into a new property.

Rules on tenancy agreements would also be changed to give more certainty to tenants wanting to remain in their properties for an extended period.

As now, a tenant would be able to terminate a tenancy after the first six months, with one month's notice.

Start Quote

Labour knows - I suspect - that the 9m people in England living in 3.8m rented homes will probably be hanging the bunting out (carefully, Blu-Tack only, nothing permanent etc) at the party's plans to make three-year tenancies the standard contract.”

End Quote

But a landlord could only do so with two months' notice and if certain conditions were met, such as the tenant failing to meet their rental payments, engaging in anti-social behaviour or breaching their contract in other ways.

After the six-month probationary period, contracts would automatically run for a further 29 months.

During this period, landlords could only ask tenants to leave for a breach of contract, or if they wanted to sell the property or needed it for their own use, not as a way of raising the rent.

Students and business people on flexible contracts would still be able to request shorter tenancies while existing contracts for buy-to-let properties agreed before the changes took place would be honoured.

Under current rules, tenants already have the right to challenge "excessive" charges and to be protected from "unfair eviction and unfair rent".

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said the Labour plan was a "short-term gimmick" and accused the opposition of "political tampering".

"The only way to raise people's living standards is to grow the economy, cut people's taxes and create more jobs. We have a long-term economic plan to do that, Ed Miliband doesn't."

Speaking on BBC One's Question Time, Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron said Labour in power had built fewer council houses than the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher, adding: "That takes some doing."

He said of Mr Miliband's cap proposal: "In theory it seems like a great idea. In practice it will crush supply and put people out of homes they would have been in otherwise."

Housing charity Shelter welcomed any move towards more "modern, stable rental contracts" but the Institute of Economic Affairs said rent controls would distort the market and create "perverse incentives" for landlords in areas where market rents rise quickly.

On Europe, Mr Miliband claimed that Labour's priority will be to change the way the European Union works rather than seeking to leave.

Labour has promised an in-out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU if further powers are transferred from London to Brussels, but admits this is "unlikely" during the next Parliament.

 

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  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 479.

    It requires more than capping where I live - it requires landlords being forced to keep rents to sensible local levels. A one bedroom flat in Brighton costs something in the region of £850. Two years ago it was something like £750. I'd like to see landlords paying full or double council tax on homes they own but don't live in, their income tax more assiduously checked etc.

  • rate this
    +73

    Comment number 455.

    Like everything else, house prices and rents are governed by supply and demand. Like has been said many times, build much more 'social' and private housing. If it can be done in the Olympic village area of east London(which was a dump in every sense of the word) it can be done in all brownfield areas of the country. Why can't successive governments see this? It would be a political winner....

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 437.

    I truly hope this subject gains momentum. For too long letting agencies have been charging extortionate amounts of money for very little work. A letting agent in NI charges £50.00 total, were as a letting agent in Hampshire charges £200.00+ per person living in the property. Hopefully new legislation would also put off a few buy to let investors opening the market up to more first time buyers...

  • rate this
    +43

    Comment number 435.

    Whenever politicians try and control something unintended consequences usually make the problem worse and then more legislation is required and then more.

    This won't be any different.

  • rate this
    +59

    Comment number 37.

    Well meaning but previous periods of rent control have simply lead to fewer properties being rented out. That is simple fact not opinion. The same has happened in other countries with rent control. It would make more sense to increase the supply of social housing and through tax & benefit breaks bring more under and unoccupied property onto the market. However, that needs more than posturing.

 

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    @robindbrant 14:47: Robin Brant, Political Correspondent BBC News

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  14.  
    Text: 61124 14:43: Get involved

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  19.  
    @PCollinsTimes 14:36: Philip Collins, Writer, The Times

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  20.  
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  21.  
    @tnewtondunn 14:35: Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun political editor

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  22.  
    @patrickwintour 14:32: Patrick Wintour, Political Editor of the Guardian

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  23.  
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    @NigelpMorris 14:30: Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor of the Independent

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  25.  
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  26.  
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    Double Olympic medallist James Cracknell
     
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  29.  
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  31.  
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  38.  
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  39.  
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  40.  
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  41.  
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  42.  
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  43.  
    @MASieghart 13:43: Mary Ann Sieghart, Journalist

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  44.  
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  45.  
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  46.  
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  47.  
    @FraserNelson 13:32: Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator

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  48.  
    @George_Osborne 13:27: George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer

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  49.  
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  50.  
    13:23: Appreciation
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  51.  
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  52.  
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  53.  
    13:19: Personal plea Nick Robinson Political editor

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  54.  
    Text: 61124 13:12: Get involved

    Richard, Worksop: Well I'm nailing my vote to the Tory flag pole, well delivered helpful to me and my family - I live in a labour fortress though so won't make a difference.

     
  55.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 13:12: Get involved

    Julie in Kent: Great speech but what about the people in their forties who lost their homes the last time Tories were in and negative equity was one of the most used phrases ever, and have never recovered. They don't qualify for all these first time buyer schemes and are looking only at becoming 'rest of life renters!' What are the Tories doing to help this group?

     
  56.  
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    Andrew Neil and Michael Gove
     
  57.  
    13:09: A sense of relief?
    The Camerons
     
  58.  
    @bbcnickrobinson 13:05: Nick Robinson, BBC

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  59.  
    13:04: Farage reaction

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  60.  
    13:02: Main points

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  61.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 12:58: Get involved

    Chris, Notts: Cameron looks very strong today, he made Miliband look like a fool.

     
  62.  
    Text: 61124 12:58: Get involved

    BBC News website reader: I like the idea of that tax cut, but how on earth is it going to be paid for?

     
  63.  
    12:54: Michael Gove Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Conservative Chief Whip Michael Gove tells Andrew Neil that he is not going to say "what is in each progressive Budget", but that the promises made by David Cameron in his speech will be fulfilled by 2020.

     
  64.  
    Text: 61124 12:52: Get involved

    BBC News website reader: Liked Cameron's speech! Sounded good. Still need to know how it gets funded, economic growth?

     
  65.  
    Text: 61124 12:51: Get involved

    Ben from Gloucestershire: How about some balance? I, like millions of others, see through Cameron's predictable party conference rhetoric. Not remarkable, predictable.

     
  66.  
    12:49: Robinson verdict Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    BBC political editor Nick Robinson says the speech was a "classic Tory" one, arguing for tax cuts and a fight with Europe. But he also notes that Labour will immediately ask: "Where is this cash coming from?"

     
  67.  
    12:47: Big exit
    David and Samantha Cameron
     
  68.  
    Text: 61124 12:45: Get involved

    Chris, in Lancashire: Whatever your political views, you have to say that speech was brilliant.

     
  69.  
    @Kevin_Maguire 12:45: Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor & New Statesman columnist

    tweets: On style, Cam gave Mili a lecture on how a podium and autocue can trump walking and forgetting. On substance, however...

     
  70.  
    12:45: Mac is back

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  71.  
    12:44: It's over
    David Cameron and Samantha Cameron
     
  72.  
    12:44: Speech done

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  73.  
    12:42: 'Better future'

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  74.  
    12:39: Cameron jokes about Farage and Miliband
    David Cameron addressing the conference
     
  75.  
    12:39: 'Proud again'

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  76.  
    12:37: Farage

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  77.  
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  78.  
    12:35: Bill of Rights

    David Cameron pledges a new British Bill of Rights under a future Conservative government, and the abolition of Labour's Human Rights Act.

     
  79.  
    12:34: Migration statistics

    Here are the official statistics on international migration since 1995.

    Long-term international migration
     
  80.  
    12:33: Immigration

    David Cameron recaps on his vision for a future Britain - where reward will follow effort and if you put in you get out. But it must also be strong in the world and control its own destiny, he adds, and makes reference to immigration. Mr Cameron says this will be at the very heart of his EU renegotiation strategy. He pledges that he will "not take no for an answer" on free movement. Anyone who thinks he can't achieve this should judge him by his record, he tells activists - pointing out that he secured the first ever EU budget cut. Only the Conservatives can offer the answer on Europe, and deliver the in/out referendum, he adds.

     
  81.  
    Text: 61124 12:32: Get involved

    BBC News website reader: Wow a tax cut for middle income earners. I must be dreaming. Now that would make a huge difference

     
  82.  
    @JohnRentoul 12:32: John Rentoul, Columnist, Independent on Sunday

    tweets: Got me. Well deserved standing ovation for Cameron saying, How dare Labour frighten people about his intentions on the NHS.

     
  83.  
    12:31: Unemployment

    Here are the official figures on unemployment and claimants of Jobseeker's Allowance since 1992.

    Unemployment and Jobseeker's Allowance in the UK 1992-2014
     
  84.  
    12:30: Deficit/surplus

    David Cameron has promised to cut the deficit and achieve a government surplus. Here is the official projection for the next five years.

    Structural deficit and surplus
     
  85.  
    @JamesManning4 12:29: James Manning, Head of Social at @TheSunNewspaper

    tweets: Huge emotion from Cameron on the NHS there. Remarkable moment.

     
  86.  
    12:29: Breaking News

    David Cameron promises to ring-fence the NHS budget from government spending cuts over the course of the next parliament, if the Conservatives win power. He says this is only made possible because of the government's economic management. Labour will "never understand" that you can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy, he adds. Remember, health care is a devolved matter in the UK, so these proposals are for the NHS in England.

     
  87.  
    12:28: NHS

    David Cameron accuses Labour of spreading "lies" about the NHS - and says Labour is the party of the scandal of Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. He recalls his experience of the health service with his late son, Ivan, and tells conference: "How dare they suggest I would ever put that at risk for other people's children." The party rises to its feet in support.

     
  88.  
    12:26: Pensions

    David Cameron hails the government's pensions reforms, which meets with applause from party activists.

     
  89.  
    @DuncanWeldon 12:25: Duncan Weldon, Economics Correspondent, BBC Newsnight

    tweets: Raising the higher rate threshold to £50,000 would cost around £5.5bn. So this tax package has a total cost of approx £17.5bn.

     
  90.  
    12:24: Teenagers

    David Cameron praises the National Citizens' Service - and pledges that a future Conservative government would guarantee a place on the scheme for every teenage in the country.

     
  91.  
    12:23: Unions

    Some more Labour attack from David Cameron - as he criticises the party's links with the unions. He says the Conservatives are the trade union for ordinary hard-working people and families.

     
  92.  
    @patrick_kidd 12:23: Patrick Kidd, Editor of The Times Diary column

    tweets: This is a really good speech. Unless you viscerally hate Cameron and the Tories in which case nothing he could say would change you.

     
  93.  
    Tweet: @BBCPolitics 12:22: Get involved

    @Brynleydm tweets: @BBCLouise @BBCPolitics Cameron speech full of what no mention of how

     
  94.  
    12:22: Education

    David Cameron tells activists the education system has improved significantly thanks to the Conservatives' education reforms - "with teachers who feel like leaders again". But Labour would risk all this, he claims. He attacks shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, who he claims is trying to restrict the educational advantages he had has a child - whereas "I want to spread them to every child" in the country.

     
  95.  
    12:21: Samantha Cameron hears her husband talk about their daughter
    Samantha Cameron watching her husband
     
  96.  
    12:20: Home ownership

    David Cameron turns to housing. He says planning reforms and the Help to Buy scheme have boosted housing supply and helped first-time buyers to get on to the housing ladder. Labour was wrong to oppose these policies, the PM adds. He reiterates the Conservatives' plan for 100,000 new starter homes for first-time buyers under the age of 40 at 20% off the market value. The Conservatives are the party of home ownership once again, Mr Cameron declares.

     
  97.  
    @paulwaugh 12:18: Paul Waugh, Editor of PoliticsHome.com

    tweets: Cameron conference audience feeling 'At last, a proper tax cut for those on middle incomes!'

     
  98.  
    12:17: Forgetting

    David Cameron goes on the attack now - criticising Ed Miliband for forgetting to mention the deficit in his speech. In a conciliatory note, Mr Cameron says people forget car keys and that he even forget his child in a pub (queue an apology to his wife, Samantha, in the audience). But you cannot be prime minister of this country if you forget to mention the most important issue it faces, he adds.

     
  99.  
    @rosschawkins 12:16: Ross Hawkins, BBC

    tweets: Cameron takes aim at Nick Clegg's fox

     
  100.  
    12:15: Spending choice

    Let the message go out that under the Conservatives, if you work hard and do the right thing, we say you should keep all of your own money to spend as you choose, David Cameron tells conference.

     

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