Whether it’s the Labour Party with their ludicrous talk of rent controls and a National Landlord Register or the recent Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, making a complete fool of herself on the radio when trying, and failing miserably, to explain how withdrawing landlord interest tax relief will solve the housing crisis, landlords could be in for a nervous time depending on what happens in May.
A national register of landlords was proposed by the last Labour administration along with the a registration scheme for letting agents and neither ever saw the light of day. All it would do is penalise good landlords (it’s not going to be funded by anyone else but landlords is it?) and it would drive rogue landlords further underground – if they are bad landlords breaking all current legislation they are hardly going to come forward to register for this scheme are they? The Scottish scheme had only achieved 75% compliance six years after its launch. And anyway, there is plenty of legislation to encourage landlords to conduct themselves well it is just a matter of allocating enough resources to enable enforcement.
As for withdrawing interest tax relief – what a very poorly thought through proposal that is! Can you imagine the housing crisis that would cause as landlords sold up to get out of the market? Who else would fill the social housing gap? What would happen to ‘Generation Rent’ who can’t afford to get on the housing ladder and are forced to rent? The effect on house prices would be political suicide for any party that put that one through.
There are something like 1.6 million private landlords in this country – that’s quite a constituency. Many MPs are BTL investors too so vested interests start coming in to play (don’t they always). One in ten Labour MPs are BTL investors so even Labour wouldn’t go that far.
It’s Silly Season from now until the election and for all parties this means a certain amount of grandstanding to their core voters. None of them have really committed themselves to a programme of social housing to undo the damage of Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme. Local authorities used it to raise cash by flogging off their housing stock without replacing it thereby forcing tenants in to the private rented sector. Such a commitment would create wealth in the country through jobs and bring about a natural rent control through a rebalancing of supply and demand. Now that’s a policy that makes sense and no one can argue with but it makes less of an impact unless it involves giving someone a good kicking.