So once again, instead of addressing the systemic issues, people have been set against one another, in this case landlords and tenants. Adding another layer to a culture war which will harm everyone involved.
Landlords and tenants need one another, there ought to be a symbiotic relationship between them. But the immense and contradictory pressure on the private rental market destroys this relationship and makes each side anxious and litigious. Faced with spiralling costs and regulations, landlords can leave the private rental market, whereas tenants usually have no choice but to rent.
Every week Church Homeless Charity gives grants to people who have been made homeless through eviction, unsafe properties, and unaffordable rents. Although our grants can help, they cannot reverse the damage our broken housing system does to people’s lives.
The Renters’ Reform Bill wasn’t going to solve these problems. But indefinitely delaying its implementation will make a dysfunctional system worse, as landlords will pre-emptively raise rents, or leave the market while tenants still have no protections. This will have a devastating effect on individuals, families, and society.
All legislation has unintended consequences. Often it is better to provide support rather than creating more bureaucracy.
The UK has an unusually high percentage of landlords with only one rental property bought as an investment/pension (45%). The reasons for this are our relatively low-value pensions, our historically high house-price inflation, and the easy availability of buy-to-let mortgages.
These ‘amateur’ landlords are unable to keep up with the enormous amount of new legislation and associated costs. And their mortgage payments have increased, as has the tax they pay on their rental income. Many of them are selling up, converting to Airbnb, or leaving their property empty. This has drastically reduced the number of private rental properties available, while demand continues to increase.
Landlords selling up has not resulted in more successful first-time buyers – instead there has been an 11% decrease over the past year.
Private rental is an important part of the housing mix. It is needed for young people starting out, and people living in a place for a short time. It is, however, not appropriate for couples, families or older people who want to settle somewhere. Private rental needs to be part of a system that also provides affordable homes of all sizes to buy, and secure housing to rent (social housing) for those who need it. The Renters’ Reform Bill was not designed to address the underlying issues.
The Government’s aim should be to enable and resource local authorities to work in partnership with good landlords and to drive out greedy and unscrupulous landlords. This requires properly resourced housing teams that can provide advice and support to tenants and to landlords.
Government should immediately abolish the so-called spare-room tax and remove the unrealistic cap on the amount paid in housing benefit, both of which have made many people homeless.
And they should reform Universal Credit to provide rent in advance and payment directly to landlords where appropriate, so that people are able to rent a home in the first place.
These supposedly cost-saving measures have led to more than 100, 000 families being housed in expensive and inadequate temporary accommodation (10% increase on last year), costing taxpayers in England £1.6 billion a year.
But the financial cost is nothing compared to the personal and social costs, which we will reap for generations. There are now more than 130,000 children in temporary accommodation, this is more than 1 in every 100 children in the UK. How are these children going to thrive?
This is a serious and worsening crisis. Starting an argument between landlords and tenants is an unhelpful distraction.