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The Liberal Democrat conference, held on 15th – 18th September in Brighton, resulted in motions being passed which included a number of new proposals for PRS.

The conference contained calls for mandatory licensing systems for landlords, and a database containing the details of rogue landlords which would be made available to the public. There were also further suggestions for reform to the private rented sector, including:

– The backing of longer-term private tenancies, with wage or inflation linked rents. This is a duplicate of the Mary Barbour Law, proposed by Scottish Labour

– First refusal or the right to buy for sitting tenants if a landlord sells the property

– A limit on upfront deposits for tenants

– A significant expansion on ‘Right to Own’, where tenants pay rent to a housing association for an increased stake in the home

– A ban on letting agent fees

Other calls for reform at the conference had a recurring theme of punitive measures and increased regulation for landlords and letting agents. These included:

– An increase of 500 per cent to council tax levied against landlords where property is deliberately bought as an investment and left unoccupied for long periods, as well as a stamp duty fee on property purchased by overseas residents

– Higher quality environmental and safety standards for existing housing stock, which would include retrofitting approximately four million properties to a better standard

– Amending the 1988 Housing Act to expand the notice which landlords must provide to tenants from two months to a minimum of six months (after the first minimum six month fixed term)

The party also aimed to copy the Conservatives’ firm stance on house building, by committing to a policy that would enable the development of around 300,000 new properties each year over the next 10 years.

A statement was included within this motion, which described how over the past decade, the Government allowances for rent through housing benefit had tripled to approximately £25 billion, where around £10 billion is given to private landlords. Subsidies to expand social housing supply has also decreased to approximately £1 billion each year.

The Liberal Democrats claim that this has forced tenants to rent from the private rented sector, which now offers 20 per cent of all property within the UK, and one third fail to satisfy Decent Homes Standards.

Richard Lambert, the CEO of the National Landlords Association (NLA), commented on this motion, explaining that this hints at a lack of understanding of the business of letting property, where the impact of these policies would be felt by landlords.

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