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Manifesto series (in order of publication)


Lib Dem




I’m deputising for J on the last of the manifesto posts, and (because it was the last published) it is Labour’s.

As before, I’m not going to be commenting on the planning/housing crossover, as planning law is outside our territory, save to note that on compulsory purchase rules, the manifesto says

We will take steps to ensure that for specific types of development schemes, landowners are awarded fair compensation rather than inflated prices based on the prospect of planning permission.

This is the elimination of hope value, and would indeed likely result in cheaper CPOs on unused property.

However, the emphasis on social housing is notable

Labour will prioritise the building of new social rented homes and better protect our existing stock by reviewing the increased right to buy discounts introduced in 2012 and increasing protections on newly-built social housing.

Sure, ‘affordable’ is still in the mix, but it is, shall we say, refreshing to see an outright prioritisation of social housing by a major party with real prospects of power. The failure to do so was a fundamental error of the 1997-2010 Labour governments and we would not be quite where we so disastrously are now if they had.

Also to be welcomed are the entirely sensible moves to a) protect new social housing from the right to buy, and b) ‘review’ the level of right to buy discount. It has to be a dead certainty that this would be a downward review, sufficient to make RTB a lot less attractive. Personally, I’d have grasped the nettle and ended RTB, as per Scotland and Wales, but it is obviously a politically sensitive move. And we know from 1997-2010 that reducing the discount works to dramatically reduce social housing being lost to RTB.

On to the meat of tenancy and leasehold reform. And this is largely ‘doing what everyone agreed needed to be done, but hasn’t been done properly’.

On private sector tenancies

We will immediately abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, prevent private renters being exploited and discriminated against, empower them to challenge unreasonable rent increases, and take steps to decisively raise standards, including extending ‘Awaab’s Law’ to the private sector.

Some people have unfortunately misunderstood ‘immediately abolish section 21′ to mean a day 1 ban. This a) couldn’t be done, and b) would frankly be a horrible mess. I take it that what is meant is the urgent re-introduction of the Renters (Reform) Bill, presumably with tweaks and changes. I don’t know what ’empowering tenants to challenge unreasonable rent increases’ means, if I’m honest, but it clearly isn’t rent controls. (Perhaps understandably. I am personally not averse to rent controls per se, but in what form and what the trade-offs are is hideously complicated. It is something promised by parties who aren’t going to have to implenet it.)

Extending Awaab’s Law to the private sector makes obvious sense (though details will need to be considered). It is wholly illogical for the social sector to have a statutory timescale within which work to address defects must start, but not the private sector – either the works are urgently required, or they aren’t, it is not a tenure issue.

On leasehold reform

For far too many leaseholders, the reality of home ownership falls woefully short of the dream they were promised. Labour will act where the Conservatives have failed and finally bring the feudal leasehold system to an end. We will enact the package of Law Commission proposals on leasehold enfranchisement, right to manage and commonhold. We will take further steps to ban new leasehold flats and ensure commonhold is the default tenure. We will tackle unregulated and unaffordable ground rent charges. We will act to bring the injustice of ‘fleecehold’ private housing estates and unfair maintenance costs to an end.  

Well this is encouraging. Not so much the content, which has largely been Labour’s stated position for some time, but that it made it in as a manifesto commitment. Now obviously specifics will need to be filled in in time, but if done right, this is a strategy for effectively removing existing freeholders in favour of leaseholder ownership, and making commonhold not only a viable tenure generally, but the only tenure for new developments (subject to some possible small exceptions).

What a cap on existing grounds rents might be, we will have to see. Of course, if Labour were elected, any solicitors doing lease extensions and enfranchisement would see an immediate cratering in incoming work until a new Act was in force, followed by a likely glut of new enquiries afterwards.

On building safety

Labour will also take decisive action to improve building safety, including through regulation, to ensure we never again see a repeat of the Grenfell fire. We will review how to better protect leaseholders from costs and take steps to accelerate the pace of remediation across the country. We will put a renewed focus on ensuring those responsible for the building safety crisis pay to put it right.

This is a bit vague, it has to be said. I think perhaps understandably so. It takes the resources and powers of government to work out what can be done, and how, and actually do it. It is at least an acknowledgment that the Building Safety Act has not achieved what it was supposed to do and that more is required.

On homelessness

The last Labour government made huge strides in ending homelessness. Under the Conservatives, that progress has been undone, with rough sleepers an all-too-common sight in our towns and cities, and a sharp rise in hidden homelessness. Building on the lessons of our past, Labour will develop a new cross-government strategy, working with Mayors and Councils across the country, to put Britain back on track to ending homelessness.

AKA, the return of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, if, as rumoured, this means a cross government task force under Angela Rayner. And it has to be said this would be a thoroughly good idea. It takes cross departmental work, funding and initiatives to reduce homelessness. The problems involved, from housing provision, legal duties, health care issues, to the crisis of affordability of temporary accommodation for local authorities are complex and frankly hideous. Anything that gives serious internal political clout to finding ways to help has to be a good thing.

Overall, this is broadly good stuff. 5 years ago it would have been seen as radical. Now, it is largely the new common-sense. Could the promises have gone further? Of course they could. But the point is that what is promised serious. And these would be fundamental changes to housing and leasehold law.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. David

    Whoever wins, it seems to me that Right to Buy should simply be suspended until we are at least building the target number of Housing AND have caught up with all the previously failed targets, so around 5m homes.

    I am sorry but I can’t agree with letting Angela Rayner anywhere NEAR social housing, forget the alleged tax avoidance, by using right to buy she took a home away from a family in need. I just look at her Wiki page and see nothing of any substance in improving herself or making her viable a manager. Many have been in her circumstance of leaving school at 16 and getting pregnant, but they have gone on to educate themselves, make a big difference to a charity or start a business. Seriously, if you had her CV in front of her would you employ her as a manager of anything, never mind Deputy PM.

    It is Labour’s failure to weed out such people that makes my centre right leaning friends refuse to take Labour seriously. Whichever party wins, I hope that they will ban MP’s from living in social housing, I am not going to name and shame here, but it seems that only when they surpass the £90k basic salary that they are prohibited.

    I am not hearing great ideas from ANY of the parties, never mind ground breaking improvements and NO I do not think the Reform Party is offering anything other than a lot of frustrated people voting for losers. Maybe the one seat for the Toad will keep them happy.

    I would also like to see real teeth given to the Police to intervene in Harassment and Forced Eviction, time after time nothing gets done, the Police say it is a civil matter despite criminal offence, Councils decline to take action and it is really hard to bring a private prosecution.

    It is absolutely right that the PRS faces the same risk and punishment as the Social Housing providers. I wonder if we need to license all Landlords and make that licence conditional on attendance and passing of training and an exam. I would not allow them to fob off their obligations to an Agent as so many who got banned do, only to carry on with the same felony level abuse.

    On Housing I think that there are some things we could do to entice more private landlords, a tax amnesty to move their properties to companies where they are the 100% owner of shares, we would need to equal the stamp duty on the sale of companies that own property.

    We could move deposit protection claims from Part56 to Part 7 so that Landlords could pay the sanctions but avoid the obscene legal fees for template claims., this would probably clear the Courts as many cases could be resolved by ADR or negotiation.

    I would also like to see an easy way for Social Housing planning applications to be fast tracked, a fast appeal service if nimbys or Parish Councils block or campaign against such plans. I know people who have been trying to partner with Housing Associations for 20+ years to build 100% social housing projects, but the reality is they have been told they need 60% private just to cover the costs.

    Anyway I better stop ranting because I will move onto the NHS and all my other ideas to fix the UK.

    • Mark

      I agree with your point that councils are underutilised enforcement powers. It’s very frustrating.

      Now, Angela Raynor, she’s a figure I may not see eye to eye with, but I can’t help but admire her unapologetic authenticity. It’s refreshing to see someone in power who hasn’t forgotten their roots, isn’t it?

      I have infinite respect for a woman who refuses to change herself because she’s unpalatable to people on the centre-right; it just helps to highlight that class discrimination and prejudice are very much alive in Britain today, and if you’re working class, get too far up the pole and refuse to lose your little idiosyncracies you’re fair game. I stand with Ange, and I’d say let MPs live in social housing – it’s stigmatised enough as it is, and if it’s good enough for MPs…….

  2. David

    Mark, normally I would admire someone who was “unapologetic authentic” but with Angela Rayner how is it authentic to have social values at the core of your individual politics and then to sell out the family that desperately needed the home she took out of the Social Housing pool. Sadly she is not alone, there are people in Unions who earn triple the average wage and are living in Social Housing homes.

    A few years ago a colleague of mine was supporting someone with a terminal illness with a Council who seemed to be waiting for him to die rather than give him the dignity he deserved. The MP was asked for help and did nothing but send a template letter from the House of Commons library, no caseworker assigned, nothing, and that MP was living in a Social Housing property.

    I can’t agree with you about letting MP’s live in Social Housing, seriously, a £90,000 odd basic salary, some claiming as much as £400,000 in expenses, Angela was famous for using term “Tory Scum” but was exposed a tad when Penny Mordaunt challenged her in the House of Commons. Angela then put on a face mask as if it somehow protected her.

    .I have no problem with rags to riches or anyone who aspires to do better for themselves or their children, in my experience these people do not forget their roots and make lots of donations. I would not have a problem if Angela Rayner was left a property by a family member and profited from it, I would say good luck to her, but what she did was exercise a right to buy. The Police are not taking any further action but that does not remove the bad smell of where she was allegedly living according the the voters roll and neighbours etc. I don’t really care about where she was living, I don’t care if she claimed a bit more tax as some of the papers have alleged.

    What makes Angela Rayner a hypocrite is that she is so strong on socialist values but she was prepared to sell out her principles for a bag of silver and deprive a family in desperate need a home. I can’t see any way to reconcile that selfish act with authenticity to alleged champion of social values. To put Angela Rayner anywhere near Social Housing is more than absurd to me, not just because Angela Rayner’s conflict, but because as a country we have failed to build enough homes since Thatcher allowed them to be sold them off. As I said in my message above, looking at her CV what relevant experience does she have as a manager of anything? What qualification has she got for herself, she might have become a practitioner of a project management methodology, she might have got some qualifications in programme management. Many of these are achieved on the side of taxing careers never mind what appears to have been a cushy number for years in opposition.

    Let’s face it, there is no such thing as as Council House and Social Housing stock is so low that the only people that have access to it are those with a very high priority need. We have seen some of those priority need places for sale at £5k each and some Councils have abandoned the software that manages the allocation, this makes auditing very difficult and can’t help but introduce nepotism.

    If we are to have a right to buy maybe it should be in the Private Rental Sector, I am sure we could think up something creative that was not too taxing for Landlords.

  3. Ian Narbeth

    David, you say in one breath that you don’t like landlords employing agents and in the next that you want to entice more private landlords. The Tories have caused many landlords to leave the sector. This in turn leads to a shortage of housing and higher rents. Why should every landlord need to become an expert in managing houses? Having competent, properly-trained agents, is a good thing. They can become experts and keep up to date with the ever-changing rules and regulations. Requiring them all to attend courses will decrease the number of landlords.

    Although it may not concern you, landlords feel they have had a good kicking for several years from the Tories and fear worse from Labour. It hasn’t helped tenants. If anything, it has made matters worse. The next Government, inevitably Labour, can either double down on the punishment or re-think. Perhaps those who provide housing need encouragement and protection from tenants from hell. We would also like the police to intervene when a house is trashed. If we had a surplus of available housing, many of the problems faced by tenants would diminish as tenants could avoid the bad landlords

    An issue that none of the parties talk about is how landlords will deal with anti-social tenants once s21 is abolished. The tweak in the Renters Reform Bill to allow eviction for conduct “capable of” causing nuisance or annoyance is a sop. Cases aren’t failing because of argument over “likely to” and “capable of”. If victims of ASB have to give evidence, they will refuse and, I predict, many will themselves move rather than stay and incur the wrath of their nasty neighbours. This is a trade off – protecting the anti-social person at the expense of victims – that none of the politicians and none of the tenant lobby groups want to acknowledge.

  4. David

    Ian, sorry you have misunderstood my comment. I am talking about Landlords avoiding LEGAL matters by putting in a so called Agent, for example employing a couple of lads who work part time and forcefully evict 13 Tenants from an HMO (licensed for 5) when one Tenant reports them to the Council for a plethora of illegality, or the Landlord that employs a building firm in the home counties who overfill an HMO and lock Tenant in or out of their room with a padlock, saying they will unlock when they pay the rent.

    Many Councils have schemes to train and partner with Landlord and of course we need professional Agents, ideally ones who are accredited by the likes of ARLA Propertymark rather than appearing on All Agents website with no stars.

    I am not a fan of the Tories but that does not mean I would accept the likes of Angela Rayner as a safe pair of hands. On R4 Today programme this morning she actually tried to use her time as a carer and a union convener as adequate experience to manage.

    There are means to deal with anti-social Tenants in S8 and the Renters Reform Fantasy alleged it was going to firm up S8, we will never know as it will never happen. I don’t agree with using S21 for issues that have specific grounds in S8, personally I think unfit Landlords get far too easy a ride for failing to follow the law, for most rectifying the S21 defects are all they do. I would like to see fines but not like the Deposit Protection ambulance chasers, I would move all but criminal matters to Part 7 and have the sanction split between the Tenant and the Local Council. I would like all Landlords licensed because there are far too many who flout the law with no intention of good practice. Councils fail Tenants and Landlords alike, I don’t think they have recovered from the original austerity of George Osborne.

    I have seen how Antisocial Behaviour can drag on for years, particularly with Social Housing Tenants, actually I think they are far more capable and get away with more than private Landlords. That being said I would like to see sharper teeth. Once case I was involved with had an alcoholic who took in (sublet while resident) 6 misfits into his 1 bed flat, it took years to put an end to it and he used every trick in the book, including getting a place in rehab only to sell drugs and alcohol to the others in the rehab establishment. Those sub-tenants terrorised the locals in a mixed development, ironically it was the brother of the ASB Tenant who kicked them out.

    We have so called “care in the community” this covers everything from diagnosed ADHD, Autism, schizophrenia to drug addicts and alcoholics who have fallen off the ladder. We did not build housing, never mind social housing , so of course they end up in PRS and Landlords are ill equipped and not even interested in helping them. I have seen cases when an Autistic Tenant has been bullied relentlessly and the Private Landlord just evicts them, they have no idea of their rights and Councils fail them.

    There are some London Councils who fund themselves by providing training & partnerships with Private Landlords and also by charging fees for interventions that need to be rectified, usually around £500 per visit. If a Landlord rents a property that is not fit for habitation they deserve to be fined, repeat offenders deserve to be banned and that ban should include a ban on renting the property, not just seeking the stand in bovver boys I referred to above.

    Landlords can use Agents from the start and outsource everything but if they have been punished then they need to be taken away from the management and only highly accredited Agents allowed to be named on the HMO as manager. Don’t care was made to care.

    The Landlords who are giving up are mostly doing it because they can’t afford the BTL mortgages. I know some who are riding it out with a £100 a month loss in the hope that they will be able to sell up when they retire and still make a huge profit. The Landlords I speak to say that the regulation which will make them leave is the stricter energy performance that was suspended. The best way to resolve most of the issues in the housing market is to meet the targets all missed by previous Governments since Thatcher. It is a simple supply and demand situation, build more, suspend the right to buy, build more, support self build projects, build more and also build more. Housebuilders need legislation, not just about building on land they own, but on this drip feed building to create fake scarcity and maximise prices.

  5. Ian Narbeth

    David, Thank you for clarifying. I commented on the anti-social behaviour tiny tweak that the RRB proposed. As a landlord of HMOs, not being able to evict an anti-social tenant is a worry. There is a 1 in a billion chance that the victim of ASB (or even conduct that isn’t criminal) will give evidence against the anti-social tenant living under the same roof. We had to allow a young female tenant leave early because of the conduct of another house-mate. We served a s21 notice and, to our relief, he left at the end of two months. However, we lost a perfectly nice tenant who was very upset.

    Whilst it is tempting to come down hard on every breach, the problem is that it is easiest to go after the low-hanging fruit – the well-meaning landlord who makes an innocent mistake. The penalties can be severe for (what in reality are) inconsequential breaches of the deposit protection rules or the Tenant Fees Act (does it really matter if a holding deposit was 10 pence over the permitted amount? Or, even more absurd, that the holding deposit was not returned after the tenancy began because there was no express agreement it could be applied to the tenancy deposit?)

    Paradoxically, making life difficult for decent landlords may help the rogues who don’t care if they breach 5 rules or 50. If extra costs, regulations and risks are loaded onto landlords, this will result in fewer rental properties and higher rents.

    I agree that we need to build, build, build. Some of that will be BTR and for that landlords need to have confidence in the system.

    • Giles Peaker

      It is hardly trivial if there is no express agreement as to the application of a holding deposit if there is a subsequent tenancy. I find such an attitude to what happens to the tenant’s money rather concerning to be honest. This is exactly why the TFA came into being. And abuse of keeping deposits was rife prior to the protection requirements, to the point that most landlords regarded a deposit as an end of tenancy perk. This ‘it is only the bad ones’ line doesn’t really work.

      As for ASB, hearsay evidence has always been allowed. The proposed backbench amendment to the late RRB was an unnecessary nonsense.


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