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Landlords could face two-year ban on selling up under Labour rent reforms

War on Landlords
War on Landlords

Labour will try to ban landlords from selling their properties in the first two years of a new tenancy in this week’s Renters Reform Bill debate.

If landlords want to sell or move into their property, shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook said they should have to wait two years from the tenancy start date before initiating repossession proceedings.

Mr Pennycook, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, has already argued that renters should be able to leave a landlord’s property after the first two months of a new tenancy.

But following criticism from backbench Tory MPs, many of whom are landlords, the Government said it would table an amendment requiring tenants to stay put for six months.

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Six months is the same amount of time landlords will have to wait before they try to repossess a property, according to the current version of the Renters Reform Bill.

The bill, which is now entering the report stage, will be debated on Wednesday afternoon. It will work through a 112-page document listing around 200 amendments which was circulated last week.

At the committee stage, none of the amendments Labour tabled were carried through to the report stage. The bill will, however, be subject to more amendments when it goes through the Lords.

Other MPs have chimed in with amendments tabled this week.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said landlords should have to pay “a relocation payment” to a tenant if they want to possess their property within the first two years of the start of a tenancy – even if the tenant stops paying rent. The only exceptions would be on grounds of crime and antisocial behaviour.

The Green Party co-leader said depending on the ground for possession, a landlord should have to pay a tenant between one and two-months’ rent no later than two weeks before the possession date.

Further amendments put forward by Ms Lucas included an independent “Living Rent Commission”, “tasked with consulting on and designing a national system of rent controls with local flexibility to be prescribed in regulations”, and a database recording Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for each landlord property.

Timothy Douglas, policy head at estate agency trade body Propertymark, said Labour’s two-year ban on possessions if landlords want to sell could “cause further shockwaves” for landlords and estate agents.

He added: “I don’t think it’s a realistic policy proposition in the current climate. There’s practical reasons why landlords need to sell. It’s already lengthy and expensive to get properties back, so extending the process even further just isn’t going to give landlords the confidence they need.

“On rent controls, you only need to look to Scotland where they’ve had a damaging impact on the rental sector. Future rent controls are giving no confidence for investment. We would urge policymakers to avoid rent controls.”

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