Recent changes in legislation, as part of government policy to encourage first-time buyers and owner-occupier purchases, have led to a tax assault on private landlords, which some people, including many landlords, believe is primarily a cheap political tactic to win over the renter vote.
Think tank Onward, run by Will Tanner, a former deputy head of policy to Theresa May, recently forecast that the Conservatives will lose the next election because of the growth of generation rent, unless it reverses declining levels of home ownership or improves conditions for renters.
The government’s latest plans to implement a three-year tenancy model to give renters more security, for example, looks like a ‘political move’, according to some experts.
Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Landlords Association, said: “This [proposal for longer tenancies] is a policy which the Conservatives derided when it was put forward by their opponents in the past two general election campaigns.
“It’s hard not to see this as more of a political move aimed at the renter vote than a genuine effort to improve how the rented market works for all those involved.”
New research from AXA Insurance shows that future elections are set to be influenced much more powerfully by the UK’s growing contingent of private renters than ever before.
The study found that while 53% of private renters voted in 2017 – a noticeable jump on previous elections that would rise further to a 69% turnout if a snap election were called this year, owed in part to financial anxiety amongst renters.
Some 72% of private renters suffer from financial anxiety, with the single biggest trigger being the inability to save for a deposit for their own home.
As of this August, the average amount someone renting privately can save is £102 per month; a quarter of renters say they can’t save anything.
The research suggests that measures, such as rent controls, that help tenants keep more money in their own pockets are likely to have the biggest resonance at the ballot boxes in the future.
But somewhat condemningly, the study also revealed yawning gaps in awareness among tenants of new legislation on energy efficiency and conditions in rental properties – despite evidence that these regulations are significantly driving up standards.
Gareth Howell, executive managing director at AXA Insurance, said: “We’ve recently seen a flurry of legislation aimed at the private rental market. Landlords are responding to it, as our research over the past four years shows rapid improvements in energy efficiency and some raising of safety standards.
“Our research over the past two years shows a very low awareness among tenants of this legislation and their new rights.
“Few are interested in punishing landlords, but do need mechanisms for building their own assets. Tenants are set to be an increasingly powerful voice in our society, making finding innovative financial solutions a political imperative in future years.”