Labour has promised to tackle “dodgy” landlords if it wins power in the general election.
The party says it will introduce a charter of renters’ rights, which will include a new national “property MOT” to deal with what it says is the issue of squalid private rental housing.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party was acting against those who had been “given free rein for too long”.
But a group that represents the sector said the reforms could restrict access and lead to more homelessness.
Under the plans, landlords would be legally required to complete an independent annual inspection to make sure homes are up to scratch.
Landlords would face fines of up to £100,000 and potentially be forced to repay rent to tenants if they let out sub-standard properties or ignore the rules.
Tenants collectively pay more than £10bn a year in rent to landlords who let out homes that are not up to scratch, according to Labour.
The party said that one in four private rented homes are classed as “non-decent”, which means they are damp, cold, in disrepair or unsafe to live in.
Its charter will be based on three key rights: the right to an affordable rented home, the right to a secure rented home and the right to a decent rented home.
As well as a “property MOT”, another key element of the reforms is moves to restrict rises in rent.
Under Labour’s plan, rents would be capped at inflation nationally.
There would also be powers for further controls in areas facing runaway rents.
Mr Corbyn said: “Labour will be on the side of tenants and take on dodgy landlords who have been given free rein for too long.
“Real change means taking on those who exploit the housing crisis to charge eye-watering rents for substandard accommodation.
“Labour will put power in the hands of tenants with our new charter of renters’ rights, a cap on private rents and funding for renters unions to support tenants to organise and defend their right to safe and secure housing.”
Mr Corbyn said good landlords “have nothing to fear whatsoever” from the reforms.
“It’s only those that don’t look after their properties properly, charge too much in rent and don’t treat their tenants correctly,” he said.
Housing charity Shelter welcomed the changes.
“For decades renters have had to live with the fear of being evicted from their home for no reason, with damaging consequences particularly for families with children and the elderly,” chief executive Polly Neate said.
“This election marks a major step forward in the battle to secure basic protections for those who rent, as Labour and the Conservatives have made clear that they will scrap this outrageous practice, and give renters the security and stability they deserve.”
But David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association, said the policy had “not been thought through”.
“We have been at the forefront of wanting to drive criminal landlords out of the market, but to place such ill-thought out burdens on the majority of good landlords would lead to a serious rental housing crisis, which would only hurt tenants as they struggle to find a place to live,” he said.
“The sector does not need new obligations, but better enforcement of those that already exist.”
Responding to the criticism, Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey told Kay Burley@Breakfast: “I understand why they have to say this, but the current rules just haven’t kept up with the fact that we’ve got a million more households renting now than we had 10 years ago.”
He added: “I’d say to the private landlords association – in Germany the rights and rules are stronger, but the size of the private rented sector is twice as big as in Britain.
“It can work, we can legislate and we will legislate to make this market fairer for renters.”
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