Approaching an election, it is not unusual for left-leaning parties to take a swipe at landlords. The reason is property and ownership of houses, land or flats is always synonymous with wealth. Basic human needs include a roof over one’s head, and the thought of losing that fuels more anxiety than living on bread and water, so it’s an emotional issue. Follow that with the socialist sketch of a huddle of landlords depicting a bunch of `rich, greedy and heartless’ people plotting to exploit the chronic housing shortage and you can easily create a political powder keg.
The facts about UK landlords are overlooked. Far from being scheming capitalists, they are quite the opposite.
• 89 per cent of landlords are private individuals, likely only to be renting one or two properties out rather than hoarding multiple properties in the pursuit of profits at any cost.
• 79 per cent of all landlords earned less than a quarter of their income from letting properties.
• 21 per cent earned no income at all from their rental property.
But surely, goes Labour thinking, tenants must be an unhappy bunch. What about all that victimisation by the unscrupulous? Surely it is the job of Government to protect them from these ogres? Why not impose three year tenancies just like they do in France?
I suppose the answer to that is that we don’t need to:
• The most recent English Housing Survey shows that the average length of tenancies under the current tenancy model is now 3.8 years with those staying on longer in their properties enjoying considerable savings on their rents.
• Government figures show 83 per cent of tenants in the private rented sector are satisfied with their properties compared to 81 per cent in the social sector.
• Just 9 per cent of tenancies in the private rented sector are ended by the landlord.
• Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that rents in the private rented sector have been increasing by much less than inflation measured both by CPI and RPI. Over the last year they increased by just 1% alone in England.
• In July 2013, the cross party Communities (DCLG) and Local Government Select Committee observed in its report on the private rented sector that rent controls “would serve only to reduce investment in the sector at a time when it is most needed.”
Rather than being of advantage to either landlord or tenant, Ed Milliband’s proposals are just another example of the the Labour party’s obsession with running a controlled economy and ruining a growing one.