Politics

Private renters desert Tories amid doubts over pledges of new powers for tenants

Private renters are deserting the Tories amid fears that Liz Truss will water down promises of new powers to challenge bad landlords, a poll says.

One in three tenants who voted for the Conservatives at the 2019 general election – a total of 400,000 people – now plan to vote for another party, the survey has found.

This so-called “rent wall” could deprive the Tories of key swing seats such as Hastings and Rye, Milton Keynes North and Gloucester, the analysis suggests, helping to force them out of power.

Carried out for the housing campaign group Shelter, it comes after Michael Gove, the champion of efforts to help renters, was forced out of government alongside Boris Johnson.

Ms Truss said nothing on the leadership campaign trail about the fate of the Renters Reform Bill he pledged – instead telling landlords they had been too “harshly treated” in the past.

Meanwhile critics led by ex-Brexit minister David Frost have attacked the legislation – which would give renters the teeth to challenge soaring rents and shoddy homes – as “the road to socialism”.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, called the poll “a loud wake-up call” to any party breaking promises to “fix renting”, as the cost of living crisis worsens.

“Private renting voters will be critical at the next general election, but they feel let down by politicians who haven’t done enough on housing,” she said.

“By getting the long-promised Renters’ Reform Bill across the line, politicians can show millions of renters and their families that they care.”

Aaron Iftikhar, director at Stack Data Strategy, which carried out the poll, said: “The Conservatives haven’t only got “red wall” seats to worry about.

“They also need to address a growing “rent wall” in the Conservative heartlands, where voters who rent privately are disillusioned with the party.”

Mr Gove, the ousted former housing secretary, will defend his proposals at a Shelter event at next week’s crucial Conservative conference in Birmingham.

Unveiled in June, the package would also stop tenants being locked into fixed term tenancies and – after a three-year delay – end the scandal of no-fault evictions, he said

A Private Renters’ Ombudsman would allow tenants to challenge “unjustified” rent increases and settle disputes with landlords quickly and cheaply – with the power to fine landlords up to £25,000.

The Decent Homes Standard, which sets minimum conditions in public housing, would be extended to the private rented sector.

The government says it is committed to the legislation but, during the leadership race, Ms Truss sympathised with the body that accused Mr Gove of “bashing landlords and looking at landlords as a cash cows”.

The head of the National Residential Landlords Association revealed he told her that landlords had been “harshly treated these past years under a Conservative government” and that would change.

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