Despite being a fairly middle of the road sort of person politically speaking, I sometimes get a bee in my bonnet about things. I’m tagging this post ‘Red Ken’.
My views have hardened on the subject of renting and letting property. While I agree that people should be able to use their property to make a profit, in certain cases that fundamental right needs to be balanced against other people’s rights. I would like to see a massive rebalancing of the legal framework of renting in favour of the tenants. Landlords shouldn’t be able to do whatever they like with property they let to tenants. Changes I would bring in include:- having the rental deposit held in a separate bank account controlled by a third party, so that the landlord must apply to retain the deposit at the end of the tenancy; security of tenure (rental contracts would be by default on a permanent and ongoing basis, with the tenant having the freedom to leave on a month’s notice, and the tenancy being protected under a change of ownership of the property); the tenant would be allowed to decorate the property; rent would not be allowed to increase at more than the rate of inflation during the tenancy and so on.
Property rights are very important in our society, but the right to a home is even more important. Everybody, including people who rent, needs to be able to put down roots in a place. It is profoundly unsettling and detrimental to health to have to move from place to place every couple of years. So establishing secure tenancy is a social good and landlords rights will have to be subordinated to it. (I am talking about residential tenancies not commercial tenancies).
You might say that if we made letting property unattractive by introducing all these restrictions and safeguards there would be fewer houses. I think it would drive the part-time landlords out and usher in the professionals. Restrictions on rent increases would flatten out the potential return on investment in property so more capital would be directed into actual investment in the real economy, which would be good for business. Restrictions on returns would also discourage speculators so the housing market would mostly be about people buying houses to live in and that would take the heat out of the property market and reduce the chance of bubbles.
So says Red Ken.