Labour group wants tenants to be let off rent during virus

22 June 2020 | Renting

Labour group wants tenants to be let off rent during virus

A new Labour group – Labour Tenants United – has issued a four-prong attack on the current private rental sector including a demand for tenants to be let off rent indefinitely so long as the virus crisis continues.

A representative of the group, writing on the Labour List website, says party leader Sir Keir Starmer’s success in recent weeks provides “an opportunity for Labour to reimagine a bold, long-term policy package that puts renters’ right to shelter and housing above landlords wanting to own property and earn profit.”

The article calls for Labour to act “as the political wing of tenants’ unions in the same spirit in which we organise as the political wing of trade unions.”

The article makes sweeping attacks on agents, landlords and the sector in general, talking of “the everyday maliciousness of unscrupulous transaction fees” and the “lack of concern for maintenance”.

Specifically, it makes four demands:

– immediately extend the moratorium on possession claims and evictions;

– “suspend the obligation to pay rent to landlords by tenants for the duration of the Coronavirus crisis”;

– ban all evictions under Section 21 “permanently”; and 

– introduce controls “so that landlords cannot keep tenants paying for the cost of the pandemic for years down the line.”

The author of the article, Patrick Jenkin from the London Labour Party, says these policies could attract back voters lost in 2019 and “can focus on supporting the most vulnerable in our society through reflecting the duties that landlords owe in providing safe and affordable homes.”

Last week Letting Agent Today reported on a controversial statement made in the House of Commons by Labour’s shadow housing minister Thangam Debbonaire, in which she said: “So will the government heed, today, the calls of Shelter, Citizens Advice, Generation Rent, numerous charities and building societies – and the Labour Party – act now, and prevent people from losing their homes in an eviction crisis in the autumn.”

LAT asked the Labour Party if Debbonaire’s comments referred also to pre-Covid evictions in the pipeline when the moratorium was announced: the party declined to respond.

This post has originally been featured in Letting Agent Today.