LONDON (Reuters) - Private landlords would face rent controls and longer tenancy agreements if the Labour party wins an election next year, party leader Ed Miliband will pledge on Thursday.
Labour, which has a 4 point poll lead over Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, has made living standards central to its fight to win over voters hit by inflation outpacing wages.
“One of the biggest causes of the cost of living crisis in our country is the price of renting or buying a home,” Miliband will say on Thursday at the launch of his party’s campaign for local and European Parliament elections in May, according to extracts released in advance.
“We need to deal with the terrible insecurity of Britain’s private rental market ... The next Labour government will legislate to make three-year tenancies the standard in the British private rented sector to give people who rent the certainty they need. These new longer-term tenancies will limit the amount that rents can rise by each year too.”
Labour said that under its planned rules, landlords and tenants would be able to conduct a rent review no more than once a year and there would be a limit on any rent rises. This would be based on a benchmark such as average market rents, it said.
It will also ban letting agents from charging tenants fees for tenancy agreements.
Buoyed by record low interest rates, low unemployment and government-sponsored schemes, British house prices have risen nearly 10 percent over the past year, pricing many people out of the market.
“Generation rent is a generation that has been ignored for too long,” Miliband will say. “Many tenancies last just six months ... some are told to accept huge rent rises or face eviction. It breeds instability and that is bad for tenants, bad for families, bad for landlords, and bad for our society.”
The announcement follows a pledge by Miliband last year that Labour would freeze energy bills for 20 months if he wins power in 2015, a policy which drew strong criticism from the industry.
Miliband’s rent control promises are likely to prove just as divisive, popular among the estimated 4 million households in England who rent privately but less so with landlords in Britain’s large buy-to-let market.
There are almost 1.5 million homes owned with a buy-to-let mortgage, according to figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders from August last year.
Miliband said Labour would also act to tackle a shortage in housing which has helped fuel the rapid rise in both house prices and rents, pledging to make sure Britain built 200,000 more homes a year by the end of the next parliament.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy