If you want to know whether buy to let, landlords and letting agents will be in the firing line for more punishment through taxation and regulation, keep a close eye on next week’s local elections.
And perversely, look beyond the actual results.
That’s because there’s a growing belief the Conservatives are just one electoral jolt away from hijacking some of Labour’s rental sector policies in a bid to woo younger voters.
We saw some evidence of that view this week with the editorial in the right-wing political magazine The Spectator, blatantly advocating that the Tories steal Labour’s policies on rent caps and longer tenancies - or risk losing the next general election.
The Spectator is influential because these days its leading supporters (like Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, David Davies and housing minister Dominic Raab) have roles in government.
In the past, these well-to-the-right pro-Brexit politicians were more a ginger group than a mainstream movement. But no longer - they are the centrists now.
Now if the Conservatives do badly in next Thursday’s local elections, the increasingly common view that the party should become more pro-tenant and more anti-landlord will become rocket-fuelled by a powerful force - electoral panic.
Picture this: some political analysts say Labour will do particularly well next Thursday in London, where much of the electorate is young, diverse, multi-cultural and privately-renting. Because of the peculiarities of the electoral system, London is very heavily represented by MPs - enough, easily, to swing a General Election when it comes.
So if the Tories lose local council seats in London next week, they will be demanding policies to win back disillusioned young voters in time for a General Election in 2022 - and where better to start, some will say, than further ‘reform’ of the private rental sector?
Many may say, with justification, that there’s nothing left to reform. After all, haven’t the Tories managed to chip away at any benefit of being a landlord in recent years anyhow?
Don’t you believe it.
They could introduce rent caps, tailored to local salaries - a Labour idea, but when there’s an election at stake, that won’t matter.
They could make 12, 24 or even 36-month tenancies standard - again, stolen from Labour.
They could also give additional planning advantages to Build to Rent, squeezing further individual buy to let landlords. They could raise stamp duty and capital gains tax; they could clampdown on incorporated landlords.
The list goes on, and please don’t even think of saying “they wouldn’t dare” ... because they have been daring the lettings sector on a continual basis for several years now.
So next Thursday might be crucial in determining the next wave of rental sector reform.
It’s just possible that for this coming poll, if you vote Labour you get Labour policies; and if you vote Conservative (but not in sufficient numbers) you might get Labour policies, too, because of the panic as MPs see their electoral future getting shorter.
As a once-famous politician said: “It’s a funny old world.” And right now, it’s funnier than ever.
*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn