LABOUR leader Ed Miliband has unveiled a “cost-of-living contract” with voters as he launched his party’s election campaign, including measures to cap rent rises for tenants.
A Labour government would also legislate to make three-year tenancies the norm, Mr Miliband said as he warned that housing costs was “one of the biggest causes of the cost-of-living crisis in our country”.
With his party facing the prospect of finishing behind Ukip in the European elections, Mr Miliband made the policy the centrepiece of his campaign launch.
Ahead of next year’s general election, Mr Miliband set out a 10-point “contract” with voters, including new measures to protect tenants and the party’s freeze on energy prices.
He said: “Ten ways that a Labour government would make a difference, ten ways that we would tackle the cost-of-living crisis, ten ways we will grow and earn our way to higher standards of living. By taking real action, on wages, on jobs and on prices.”
Mr Miliband said there was a “cost-of-living crisis that Britain hasn’t seen for as long as anyone can remember”.
Speaking at the campaign launch in Redbridge, Mr Miliband said: “The vital link between the wealth of the country as a whole and ordinary family finances has been broken.
“People are working harder, for longer, for less, with a few at the top getting the big rewards, insecurity at work for the many. And the promise of Britain, that the next generation should do better than the last, being broken.
“That is the reality that people face.”
He said the problem was being felt in other countries, including the US and Australia, and was “our generation’s challenge” and the “defining issue of our age”.
In a venue decorated with banners bearing the party’s new slogan - “hardworking Britain better off” - Mr Miliband said a Labour government would “restore that link between the country’s prosperity and your families’ prosperity”.
Under Labour’s proposals designed to prevent rogue landlords forcing people out by hiking rents, property owners would be forced by law to keep rises below a set level.
Labour said the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) was seeking an “appropriate benchmark” such as average market rents in an area or inflation.
Letting fees - which the party said cost tenants an average £350 - would be abolished.
And people would be guaranteed a three-year tenancy as long as they paid the rent on time and were not guilty of anti-social behaviour during the first six months.
Landlords could only serve them with two months’ notice to leave with “good reason” such as rent arrears, anti-social behaviour, breaches of the tenancy agreement or because they needed the property to live in or to refurbish.
Mr Miliband said: “When you’re buying a home, the estate agent doesn’t charge you fees. But those who rent are given no such protection.
“They get charged up to £500 just for signing a tenancy agreement. Even if the letting agents are charging the landlord for the same thing too.
“A Labour government will ban letting agents from charging tenants. And we will deal too with the terrible insecurity of Britain’s private rental market.”
He added: “With families at risk of being thrown out with two months’ notice for no reason, with some even told to accept huge rent rises or face eviction, the insecurity and instability of the private rental market is bad for tenants, bad for families and even bad for landlords.”