‘The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day…’ goes the old song and that certainly seems to be the case for the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and Scottish Labour. For supporters of those parties, my sympathies, but for the private rented sector, the result was perhaps as good as could be hoped for. Sharon Betton, landlord advisor with the Bolton Bond Board and author of The Landlord Good Management and Practice Guide looks back at the election results and what it means for landlords.
The Conservative party, despite the polls of the last few weeks, managed to achieve a majority Government, with no necessity now to share power with any other party; will this make them tougher and less amenable to another point of view? Well possibly, but it does give them the chance to continue with their welfare reforms, which few working people would argue with in concept.
There will be landlords who sincerely support Labour and their principles of assisting the low-paid and the vulnerable, but in the pre-election period, they seemed to have no understanding of the private rented sector and the role it plays in housing those same vulnerable people. They said they would introduce a mandatory 3-year tenancy, to be fairer to families. Arguments can be made that some tenants don’t want this, preferring the flexibility that a 6 or 12 month assured shorthold provided; landlords in most parts of the country do not use the accelerated possession procedure to evict if they have good tenants but to no avail – this was what Labour intended to do.
An interesting thought – Labour wanted a mandatory 3 year tenancy in the private sector. Would they be equally willing to forbid local authorities and housing associations using introductory tenancies? No mention was made about this! They wanted rent controls – in huge swathes of the country, these have been happening voluntarily, landlords for the most part following what the local allowance was for their size of properties. They called for a landlord register for more accountability and added bureaucracy for the landlord. Well, this time, they won’t have the chance.
To be fair, the Conservative Government must also be castigated for already imposing legislative change that landlord’s are unhappy about. The requirement for landlords to undertake immigration checks will almost certainly roll-out from the Midlands. Further cuts in the housing element of Universal Credit are probable as the welfare budget is reduced, which hits landlords who may be unable to afford to keep tenants that are not receiving the full rent level amount but feel the injustice of evicting, under those circumstances.
The private sector landlord must also take on board the legislation passed by the coalition Government – measures to tackle retaliatory eviction, energy efficient standards and the need to fit smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, all rushed through before the election. Sad that good measures, for the benefit of tenants, in the energy efficient standards and the smoke alarms should stand alongside the spurious retaliatory eviction measure.
So, the election is over for another 5 years. We know there will be further austerity, but this is a necessary evil and there is not a great deal we can do about it – democracy rules. We can only wait and see what happens in the sector over the next 5 years, but I think another result could have been far harder on landlords and the sector than this will be.