So, now we can take a breather – you know, go for a lie down, have cup of tea – stuff like that. You see, the party political conferences are all over, so we can return to normal business, like struggling to pay rent or find work etc relying on politicians to make all the big bad, renting monsters go away and then to kiss it all better.
Yes indeed - all three main parties have realised that tenants, who rent but do not, cannot, and will probably never buy a home, can still vote. You've had Labour's former housing spokesman on 'transparent agent fees' and even Pickles playing 'longer tenancies' but real tenants, that is - me too, are rarely asked. Now if anyone did care to ask us what policies we’d appreciate in the wonderful, sunny happy, happy, happy world of private renting…here’s what we would say:
1 Longer tenancies? yes please! But in Pickles tenants charter - there is a 'break clause' for longer tenancies, which will be abused without funded 'policing' to check owners really are selling up or housing family members. So there really be longer tenancies – the Tories are sort of saying ‘pretty please on longer tenancies’ when they should be saying: ‘Gimme!’
2 Rent controls - unpopular, but especially needed in London - when interest rates are low, rents rise high, high up above the sky because they can, not because there’s a need, such as costs. This could stop tomorrow, if anyone cared to be tough.
3 So-called 'forced landlords' must be compelled to tell tenants clearly that they will be selling the property i.e. someone else’s’ home so renters are aware their tenancy is inherently insecure, and will end whenever it suits rentiers.
4 Resources to protect tenants from the rare but vocal 'rogues' to be increased, right now. Tenancy Relation officers to increase in number, emergency help lines, better police training to prevent unlawful evictions.
5 Space standards in newbuild for BTL - no more cramming in rabbit hutches.
6 Landlord and letting agent licensing – and soon, please, properly funded and with really strong financial penalties such as losing the property for transgressions.
7 In HMO's or shared houses there must be minimum standards such as sufficient space, storage, bathrooms for tenants, including a seat in the common area for each tenant - so owners must also ensure provision of adequate 'common area' or lounges, as we used to call them in the olden days. This would end the practice of rent-to-let, so no more cramming tenants into box rooms to eat sleep, and do everything, in one tiny little room.
8 A national tenants forum is needed, to be consulted properly on new laws policy and all matters related to tenants, renting, building, buy-to-let, build to let. So that developers must listen and take the needs of tenants into account when building or planning – see previous post.
Here's to strict, properly funded, clear, researched red tape in rented housing - we need more of it. Much more.