Corbyn: Labour Will Give Power Back To Renters
Labour’s next manifesto will include a pledge to reduce eviction powers for landlords and tip housing rules back in favour of renters, Jeremy Corbyn has announced.
In an interview with The Independent, the Labour leader said at the next election his party would overhaul housing legislation by scrapping laws which allow landlords to kick out tenants under so-called “no fault” evictions.
It is claimed that the contentious practice – allowing landlords to evict renters on a whim and without reason – has contributed to the alarming rise in homelessness since the creation of the coalition government in 2010.
The Labour leader believes the current rules can lead to the break up of communities, children having to move schools or travel long distances to stay at the same school, and causes insecurity and anxiety for tenants across England.
Asked whether abolishing the “no fault” evictions would be part of the next Labour manifesto, he replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely. I am very committed to housing and dealing with homelessness. I think it’s a moral litmus test for the country: do we just put up with so many rough sleepers or do we do something about it.“
Earlier this year Scotland abolished the “no fault” eviction process by scrapping fixed term tenancies for private renters and giving tenants indefinite tenure. Housing campaigners, at the time, hailed the move as a “new dawn for renters”.
Figures compiled by Mr Corbyn’s party through data provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) claim the number of households accepted by local authorities as homeless because they have come to the end of their assured shorthand tenancy has quadrupled from 4,580 from 2009-10 to 18,270 in 2016-16 – or a 299 per cent increase.
And recent research by Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation claimed that more than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015 – the highest level ever recorded. The study added that high numbers of “no fault” evictions had driven up the number of renters being forced to move home and that more than 80 per cent of the extra evictions recorded were a result of the Section 21 notice, which gives tenants two months to vacate their property.
“What we would do is bring in a more regulated private rented system with particular emphasis on longer tenancies,” he told The Independent. “It’s a power relationship that is not remotely fair. Every other country in Europe has some degree of private sector regulation – most cities in the United States do with the odd one out and this was abolished, basically, by the Thatcher government.”
Mr Corbyn added: “As you know I’ve spent a lot of my life very concerned about housing and remain so. At the moment we have a largely deregulated private rented sector in Britain and people can be evicted or have their tenancy terminated at the end of six months for no reason whatsoever.
“The stress levels on people concerned is incredible. I get it all the time from constituents because a third of my constituents are private renters. I am very determined to bring some order and stability to their lives by longer tenancies and eviction that can only be there for good reason rather than just what can be retaliatory eviction.”
Rights for tenants to remain in a property were reduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1988 Housing Act, which included Section 21, and tipped the power relationship in favour of the landlord. Until this point tenants could remain in their homes as long as they had done nothing wrong, with extra protection for families.
Responding to the Labour leader’s comments, Polly Neate, the CEO of Shelter, said it is a “national scandal” that there are now more than 300,000 homeless people in the UK.
She continued: “A devastating mix of stagnating wages, soaring rent and cuts to welfare – including a freeze on housing benefit – are thrusting many ordinary people into arrears and eviction. Others are forced to leave even when they have done nothing wrong, such as when their landlord wants to put the rent up.
“Every day, our expert advisers hear harrowing stories of people under intense pressure from these notices. They leave families desperate, with just two months to pack up and find somewhere new to live – which can cause extreme anxiety, especially for children and vulnerable groups like those with disabilities or mental health issues.
“We know losing a tenancy is now the number one cause of homelessness so attempts by any political party to increase renters’ rights and reduce no fault evictions, so that people can keep a roof over their heads, should be warmly welcomed.”