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Vote Conservative...get Labour?

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

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    Worrying, infuriating but accurate assessment.

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    There's nowt like a political party in panic. So the CONservatives have cocked things up by betraying their core voters, many of which have sworn will never vote for them again on any level, and now they're desperately trying to woo the youngsters that see the Tories as the 'Nasty Party'. I can't see them having much luck with that myself. They've backed themselves into a corner and there's no way out.

    They're not even showing themselves as being credible in solving the housing issues. Still relying on big builders to build masses of houses when it is not what they're set up to do and is against their interests. The Housing Ministers is still deemed unworthy of being in the Cabinet when we have a housing crisis. Might as well axe the position.

    So instead they're intent on pushing landlords out of the market when Councils across the land are begging for more landlords to provide stock. The homelessness figures are soaring as is the emergency accommodation costs. In my area there are 330 families in emergency accommodation! The nightly cost of this is incredible, not to mention the social cost too.

    When will the Tories pull their fingers out and re-form Housing Development Corporations??? Until they do then the issues will grow and grow and grow, and they'll run out of people to blame!

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    Excellent article, so true.

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    The Tories have brought it all on themselves. Idiots to the core. They have created this problem with deliberate policies of such magnitude of stupidity that there is now no way back for them without casting further blame on the innocent in an attempt to win voters who hate them even more than their former supporters do!

  • Barry X

    sad but true.... I've been saying and predicting all this (and more) for a long time (look through some of my long slightly rambling previous posts if you like)....

    Not sure what we can do....

    One thing occurred to me but I'm not sure if it's correct.... I do have quite in depth legal knowledge of landlord-tenant law but this idea is something I've only tentatively thought about and haven't as yet put any significant effort into researching or refining......

    Let's assume the government brings in yet more tweaks to the Acts of 1988/1996 that created the AST... they've already chipped away at undermining the critical s.21 notice etc, and there's all the crap that started with the 2006 Act to do with deposits etc...... now, suppose they add yet more garbabe to steadily turn the once shinny new AST into something more like a 1950's statutory tenancy (rent controls, no chance of ever gaining vacant posession of your property unless the tenant actually feels like going and/or dies and has no relatives legally able to take over.... the government now trying to, in effect, turn everyone into some sort of "sitting tenant")..... a possible solution could be.... DON'T OFFER ASTs ANYMORE! If someone would like to rent one of your (our) properties, and they are acceptable to us, offer a DIFFERENT type of tenancy OF OUR CHOOSING that is properly drafted to be OUTSIDE THESE ACTS and IMMUNE and EXEMPT from many (if impossible most) of their increasingly anti-landlord and draconian provision that are eroding our property rights and by stealth taking control and property from us.

    This has long been done anyhow for unusual and/or high value properties. Why not look into doing it for ALL properties and the hell with all this encroaching and hostile red tape?! Let's walk away and use our initiative and own form of tenancies.

    Sure, it will be a hassle and significant increase in legal costs to start with, but that should be seen as an investment and in the long run easily recouped.

    I'd be interested to know what others think of this "alternative" escape/approach?

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    It’s highly unlikely to work. Unless certain conditions are met that create the various commercial contracts (High rent/corporate tenant/holiday let/licence and a thousand others) then the assured shorthold is the default position in law (1988/96 Housing Acts).

    Remember an AST is automatically created when a Residential house is let even if no contract has been written or signed (an ‘implied contract’).

    I therefore love your thinking, and hope there’s a way, but I’m pretty sure there won’t be. A rose by any other name is still a rose etc...

     
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    As James has alluded to, if you have a tenant that pays a set amount of rent, at set intervals, for exclusive use for all or part of a residential premises, they will by default have an AST. Whether or not they've signed a contract/agreement or you wish to call that agreement something else is most likely irrelevant.

     
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    So when they have completely destroy ed the PRS
    market and thousands of jobs are gone. The courts are full of evictions and the homeless remain homeless derelict property stays derelict and what then?

    Older people who relied on property income now will be at the mercy of the state.

    What sector will they next destroy to pay for all the social care and homelessness created by government policies?

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    The problem is, if you vote Labour it definitely will get worse

  • Simon Shinerock

    An excellent assessment Graham, chilling though it is...

  • G romit

    It's as though the current Tories (for they are NOT Conservatives) have a death wish; they're on a deliberate suicide mission to lose power.
    It seems just seems that every policy is ill thought through and crass; designed to lose votes, and not just relating to the PRS or even just housing.
    Do they know something we don't?

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    Yes. They need positive policies which are part of a coherent vision; not ad hoc, populist, far left, knee-jerk reaction ones.

     
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    A recent report by Knight Franks says a quarter of house holds will be renting privately by 2021, with that in mind it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Conservative Party might start looking at this vote and how to get it. It makes more sense for the Tories focus their efforts on renters votes than landlords. One aspect of this is the math, there are just more private renters than the landlords, another is that nobody is really going to get too upset about buy-to-let landlords not being able to make ends meet, whereas worrying about whether you can pay the rent is actually quite relatable.

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