It’s disappointing to say, but once again the rhetoric from both the Labour and Conservative party conferences towards the private rented sector and landlords was, on the whole, negative.
Let’s face facts, we all know that advocating growth in the private rented sector is not going to garner positive headlines for politicians. Advocating and implementing policy that encourages home ownership is a vote winner.
But to consistently denigrate the sector, and the landlords that operate within it, will only compound the supply pressures the sector is already facing today.
We heard some of the tired cliches about privately renting trotted out again over the course of the two conferences – one more so than the other - both on the main stage and in the fringe meetings, tarnishing the fantastic work that the overwhelming majority of landlords do in providing a fifth of the nation’s households with a home.
I’m not naive enough to expect this, but it would be refreshing for landlords to hear some praise once in a while, and also for Government to recognise the vital role landlords are playing.
Praise for the investment they have made to house the millions who can’t find a social home or afford to buy their own home, praise for the social mobility the private rented sector facilitates, praise for providing a home to students, praise for the billions of pounds they have ploughed in to improving and upgrading rental properties.
Too often we hear about the negative side of the rental market and, of course, that needs to be addressed and stamped out. But let’s do that at the same time as recognising and encouraging those landlords that foster great relationships with their tenants and invest in their homes.
The private rented sector is facing severe property shortages, particularly in the South East of the country. We have seen smaller-scale landlords sell and a shift into short-term lets in certain markets, such as London and tourist locations. Current tenants are also staying in existing homes for longer, so the turnover of rental homes is stilted.
The reduction of new homes coming into the private rented sector stems directly from Government policy, including the introduction of the three per cent stamp duty surcharge and the winding down of mortgage interest tax relief.
And new policy could cause further disruption. The Renters Reform Bill has implications over the ability of landlords to seek possession of their property, whilst the long-awaited minimum Energy Performance Certificate legislation will require broad action from landlords.
In Scotland, we have seen more severe Government intervention in the form of rent controls. We believe this will discourage investment into the sector and is something we argue strongly against.
Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer called out buy-to-let landlords in his speech when announcing a new target of 70% home ownership and a housing policy that would favour first-time buyers.
First-time buyers already outweigh purchases by landlords by five to one according to industry figures and the three per cent surcharge on Stamp Duty for buy-to-let purchases helps level that playing field.
Let the political leaders sabre rattle from their podiums to garner soundbites and votes.
But at a policy level, let’s focus on creating a housing market that recognises the needs of different cohorts of people at varying stages of their lives. Let’s stop pitting one tenure against another and consider the housing ecosystem in the round. And let’s stop taking cheap shots at a sector that is doing so much good in providing a good quality home to millions of tenants.
* Richard Rowntree is managing director of mortgages at the Paragon Banking Group *
Want to comment on this story? If so...if any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals on any basis, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.