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Congratulations to Theresa May for announcing a new Conservative policy! It’s just a shame she stole it from Labour and watered it down.

Here’s her announcement as it appeared on Twitter:

The press release states: “Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason, in the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation, Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP has announced (15 April 2019).

“As part of a complete overhaul of the sector, the government has outlined plans to consult on new legislation to abolish Section 21 evictions – so called ‘no-fault’ evictions. This will bring an end to private landlords uprooting tenants from their homes with as little as 8 weeks’ notice after the fixed-term contract has come to an end.

“This will effectively create open-ended tenancies, bringing greater peace of mind to millions of families who live in rented accommodation.”

It won’t, though. Landlords will simply put up the rents on tenants they don’t want, and price them out of their homes. This is a pretence at taking action that won’t actually change anything at all.

This is a Labour policy that the Conservatives have watered down and put out in the pretence that they are “on your side” (as Mrs May herself protested in a poor performance on TV recently).

Consider this BBC news story from September 2018 – nearly seven months ago:

“Labour says it would scrap laws allowing private landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason.

“The law, in force since 1988, is thought to be the biggest cause of homelessness.

“Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey announced the policy at the party’s conference in Liverpool.

“Mr Healey also unveiled plans for a £20m fund to set up “renters’ unions” to support tenants in disputes with landlords.

“So-called “no-fault” evictions – when landlords throw people out of their home without saying why – have been growing in recent years.

“The party’s policies include:

  • A new levy on second homes that are used as holiday homes
  • Reversing cuts to legal aid for housing related cases
  • Introducing three-year tenancies
  • Banning letting agent fees
  • New minimum legal standards to ensure homes are “fit for human habitation”
  • Giving cities the power to introduce rent controls”

I seem to recall the Conservatives having prevented moves to stop so-called “revenge” evictions in recent years, and also preventing a law to ensure homes are fit for human habitation. The Tory benches in the House of Commons are full of private landlords.

Shadow housing minister John Healey was remarkably restrained in his response to Mrs May’s announcement. He restricted himself to pointing out the faults in the watered-down policy she is offering:

“Any promise of new help for renters is good news but this latest pledge won’t work if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking the rent.

“For nine years, the Tories have failed to tackle problems facing private renters. Tenants need new rights and protections across the board to end costly rent increases and sub-standard homes as well as to stop unfair evictions.

“Labour is committed to giving renters the rights they deserve, including control on rents, indefinite tenancies and new legal minimum standards.”

Other commentators have been less kind.

I myself, for example, called it: “Another watered-down Labour policy. Time to give up and go.”

Rachael Swindon put her finger on the problem: “You’ve not thought this out (shock). The landlords will just put the rent up, forcing more homelessness, and more dependency on the state. Who actually comes up with these ideas? Honestly, you’re utterly useless.”

Paul Wingrove made a pertinent point: “Would be better if you acted to deliver all the social housing you have been promising for bloody years!”

And Jamie Aspin put into words what we are all thinking: “We could do with an eviction or two on Downing Street!”

Strangely enough, it seems Mrs May could actually be thinking the same thing.

Writer/actor David Schneider responded: “Brace yourselves. General election incoming…”


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