Help make the Lib Dems the renters’ champion

On Tuesday morning, the last day of conference, I moved a motion calling on conference to support renters. To support them by instructing our party to scrap section 21 of the housing act (1988). Section 21 is the part of the act that allows no-fault evictions. You can see the debate that followed here. Please do watch it, but to save you time, I’m very happy to be able to tell you that they did. So, it is now party policy to scrap section 21, either directly as a government, or indirectly, in response to a vote in the Commons, or in response to a consultation (and of course, one is already running and offering that very approach).

But as I said in my speech, as I have in other LDV articles, I’m interested in more than just scrapping a pernicious piece of legislation. Section 21 is the legislative bullet of no-fault evictions, but it’s not really the cause. There are in fact many causes. In my speech I identified the biggest. We have too few homes, whether for rent or for purchase. And what are available are either too expensive for the vast majority of our fellow citizens, or are in seriously unfit for habitation, in dangerous states of repair or maintenance.

I, like many people, am not in a place to be able to afford to buy a home anytime soon, so I will be reliant on the private rental market (a term I hate as much as I hate the term ‘luxury’, which seems to appear in front of every new home advert my news feed seems to see fit dangle in my face) for the foreseeable future. And in itself that’s not a problem. I’m not a ‘stuff’ person, so ownership has never been the epitome of existence for me; I’m much more of a Gig person, using my local cycle hire scheme to get around and buying ‘pre-loved’ tech whenever mine finally gives up.

But because I can’t own, I often find I can’t home. My rentals thus far haven’t allowed me to have pets, to decorate, to hang my own things on the wall, or to be sure that at the end of my (legally required) short-term contract that I won’t have to move out and search for something else, with all of the costs that ensue.

So, I want the party to step up to the plate for renters. We need longer tenancies to be available as a default option for those who want them. It’s a cliched line, but on the continent families pass on tenancies from one generation to another. Enabling longer tenancies, vital for families with children, should also allow us to recast renters as long-term residents in their communities, allowing them to have the confidence to be more involved with their neighbours and neighbourhoods.

We need better dispute resolution arrangements, for tenants and landlords, so that when things go wrong both sides can easily and quickly access advice, support and if needed, justice. Mediation is a great mechanism for creating find consensual ways to resolve disputes, and if properly funded can prevent much larger legal costs that inevitably arise when the courts become involved.

And we need more rental properties that are owned by disinterested parties, such as investment trusts and larger property groups. This is very much the cornerstone of the rental structure in Europe, where property owners take a much longer view of their investments, thinking in centuries rather than lifetimes. To do that will need our financial system to support such thinking, and that will need government action to ensure it’s simple and straightforward to do, and that there are no loopholes that unscrupulous rentiers can exploit.

I think our party is best placed to do that. We are fair minded, we see both sides of the equation that comprise contemporary renting, and we are committed to ensuring social justice. The one gap in our structure is an overt structure for gathering members views and disseminating information about our plans, and so I want to address that, by setting up a new Lib Dem group, aimed specifically at renters, ‘Lib Dem Renters’. So, if you’re a renter, and you want to see the party do more, join me. Click on this link to let me have your details, and I’ll add you to the growing list of Lib Dems who want to play a role in making our party the renters’ champion, whatever your age, whatever your income, wherever you are.

Lib Dem Renters is a new initiative, set-up to support, inform and lobby for better for people renting their home. 

 

* Mark Platt is a member of Westminster Lib Dems, a campaigner with Generation Rent, and a Private Renter.

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8 Comments

  • Maureen Treadwell 23rd Sep '19 - 4:21pm

    Mark, I do agree that Section 21 is unfair – 2 months notice is ridiculous and unfair. However, I don’t think Investment Trusts OR larger property groups are going to be disinterested parties; I know this market well and if I had to choose between a good private landlord and one of the big commercial firms, I go for the landlord any day. Trusts and property firms are not social enterprises ; their whole ‘raison d’etre’ is to drive up profits and the only profit in property letting is at the top end of the market! The need is for low cost housing for those excluded from the private rental sector (PRS) a well as excluded from social housing because of limitations of supply. We don’t need fewer houses in the PRS we need more quality, affordable housing for those in work but on lower incomes. In fact, local initiatives to promote the PRS (i.e. Local Authority run local investment schemes for local people to invest pension funds in return for income) could be a possibility.

  • Andy Hinton 23rd Sep '19 - 6:55pm

    I agree with Maureen, I’m not convinced that having large faceless companies become more the norm of the rental sector is in the renters’ interests. I also think that whilst Mark’s article is written from the point of view of someone who doesn’t mind renting, there are *plenty* of us who are private renters only because we have no other viable options right now, and the party needs to be a voice for those people too.

    We need affordable houses in places that people actually want to live, and that means overcoming NIMBYism and finding ways for existing centres to increase their housing density with affordable mid-rise housing, not just perpetuating suburban sprawl.

  • Andy Hinton 23rd Sep '19 - 8:10pm

    Mark, apologies if I’ve misinterpreted you. I took this:

    “And in itself that’s not a problem. I’m not a ‘stuff’ person, so ownership has never been the epitome of existence for me…”

    …to mean that you wouldn’t mind renting except that you wanted to fix the things you go on to talk about. But happy to retract that if it’s not a fair assessment.

  • Neil Sandison 23rd Sep '19 - 11:02pm

    Good article Mark .agree longer term tenancies should be the goal .The good news is that some private sector investors are still continueing to build high quality rented properties outside of the London bubble unfortunatly some are still converting to existing terraced and town houses to high density HMOs and will use quick fix terminations to end tenancies should tenants get into difficulties whivch then put councils under real pressure to find emergency accomedation .We need a rebalancing of both social and private tenancies for those who have urgent needs and those who want the freedom of choice to stay in the private rented with some security.

  • The one thing I’d really like to change is to ban landlords from insisting on fixed term renewals.

    My landlord will only allow 6 or 12 month renewals, which severely limits my opinions on moving out. I understand landlords need to have a minimum initial term to make it worth their while, but going to a rolling monthly contract after that period would make life much easier.

  • It’s a point of nuance Andy. I’m not a stuff person and so I can cope with it, but I do then go on to say what in relation to housing that actually means for me, and how insecurity and lack of options to make a rented property a home does impact.

    One can be happy not to own something in the long term (after all in the LT we’re all goners) whilst wanting to have control over it while in possession, which is very much how long term renting supported through the large scale investor approach that we see in continental Europe works.

  • Grant Sloman 30th Sep '19 - 10:55pm

    Hi. I’m a landlord, so have an interest in this policy. I only rent out one property, a studio flat which I previously lived in. I like to think that I’m a responsible landlord. My financial circumstances could change at any point. This could mean that I either need to sell the property, or to move back into the property myself. How would this policy affect me and others in my position?

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