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Labour plans could force buy-to-let landlords to sell to tenants

Written by: Mark Banham
Buy-to-let landlords could be forced to sell tenants their rented properties at knockdown prices under controversial new proposals that could be enacted under a Labour government.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the opposition party would make it easier for tenants to buy the homes they live in to tackle what he called the “burgeoning” buy-to-let market and would bring a radical “right to buy” scheme forcing landlords to sell their properties to expectant tenants at what he pledged would be “reasonable” prices.

The policy that could come into force under a Labour government would come as a blow to the UK’s 2.6 million landlords.

Any right-to-buy scheme in the private housing market could essentially be a mirror image of former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s controversial policy of selling council properties to tenants at heavily discounted prices during the 1980s, but instead would hit the voting powerbase of private landlords.

McDonnell told the Financial Times: “You’d want to establish what is a reasonable price, you can establish that and then that becomes the right to buy.

“You (the government) set the criteria. I don’t think it’s complicated.”

Expropriation of private property

Robert Colvile, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “The big story of the housing market in recent years has been a surge in private rental at expense of owner-occupation. It is vitally important to reverse that.

“But it is equally vital that this is done in a way that is fair – to tenant and landlord alike. Labour’s proposed ‘right to buy’ for private tenants appears in effect, to be the expropriation of private property, and is likely to have all kinds of unintended consequences.”

Chris Norris, director of policy and practice at the National Landlords Association, added: “To suggest that private landlords should be selling their properties to their tenants at a below market rate arbitrarily set by politicians is ludicrous.

“Landlords had to pay market rates themselves. It’s only right that, if and when they decide to sell it, they can do so at market rates.”

Only last week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for the introduction of a second home levy to tackle the problem of what he called the “offensive” number of empty homes in London.


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