Plan will address ‘power imbalance’ and insecurity of rentals, says shadow minister
A Labour government would oblige private landlords to offer tenancies of indefinite length, based on the German system, in an attempt to give renters more security.
The plan, announced by the shadow housing secretary, John Healey, would seek to protect tenants from arbitrary eviction without having to give a reason. In contrast in Germany, landlords are only allowed to evict tenants for reasons such
as failure to pay rent or committing an offence in the property.
Tenants would still be able to leave the property if they gave a period of notice.
The proposal is a change from Labour’s pledge at the 2017 election, when it committed to making private tenancies three years by default.
Labour says the indefinite system brings more security for renters, with private tenancies in Germany lasting an average of 11 years, compared with about four in England. This would, the party says, particularly help the 1.6m households with dependant children in private rented accommodation.
The scheme is also intended to reduce the extent of rent increases. Labour says UK landlords use tenancy changeovers as an opportunity to increase prices. Currently, tenants can be evicted with notice without any reason being given.
According to a survey of private landlords in England in 2018, in 18% of cases where a tenancy was ended in the previous two years, it was the result of a decision of the landlord or their agent.
Healey said: “People shouldn’t be living in fear of losing their homes. The insecurity of renting is a power imbalance at the heart of our broken housing market, where tenants are afraid to report problems in case they are evicted, and families with children are forced to move at short notice.
“Many landlords provide decent homes that tenants are happy with, but the government is allowing rogue landlords to take advantage of good tenants. Renters deserve better.”
The plan was welcomed by the housing charity Shelter, which said the current system meant “an alarming number of people are at the mercy of no-fault evictions”.
Greg Beales, Shelter’s campaign director, said: “Private rents are already expensive, so when you add short-term contracts into the mix, the situation for renters is pretty tough. Right now a family can be turfed out for no reason at any time, and saddled with not only the cost of moving but the huge burden of uprooting their lives.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. We look forward to seeing what the government brings to the table on longer tenancies, and hope they will give renters the security and stability they deserve.”
Government statistics show there are around 11 million people in England, in more than 4.5m households, who rent their home from a private landlord – double the number from 14 years ago.