Sir Keir Starmer has already backed plans for an extension to the three month ban on evictions, giving tenants up to two years to pay arrears to help them avoid losing their homes in June due to the coronavirus pandemic. But left-wing activists within the party have accused their new leader of “failing” renters and urged him to do more, saying a rent deferral will just push people into further poverty amid the COVID-19 crisis.
More than 4,000 Labour members have signed a letter backed by the camping-group Momentum, which supported Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, urging Sir Keir to improve his policy which they say is “simply not good enough”.
The letter reads: “Deferring rent payments is not enough. We encourage our members to sign and support #CancelTheRent.”
“Deferrals do not confront the loss of income experienced by private renters, nor do they delay the eviction process.
“Universal credit is too slow-moving and not nearly enough to keep landlords from demanding rent.
“Unfortunately, private renters cannot with much confidence look to the Labour party for comfort. While reforms to Universal Credit are welcomed, the Labour Party’s revised position of rent deferrals does not help us as workers. It simply pushes the problem down the road.”
The letter calls on the Labour Party to “pressure the Government to cancel, at the tenant’s request, payments of rent, for any tenant experiencing any drop in income” and “cover, at the tenant’s request, utility payments, for any tenant experiencing any drop in income”.
Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana said: “When the ban on evictions ends, renters whose incomes have been hit shouldn’t be made to pay-off huge debts.
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But Sir Keir warned their suggestions could lead to taxpayers bailing out private landlords.
He told LBC: “If all rents are suspended full stop then the Government will have to pay to compensate landlords – there’s no question about that.
“And therefore public money will be paid to landlords to compensate for the fact they haven’t got rent even where people don’t lost their jobs.
“So what we’ve said: the better option is if somebody does lose their job, which is tragic and I certainly hope you don’t, then the benefit system should be paying the rent at a better rate.
“So in other words if you carry on and you’re still in your job and you can pay your rent, then there’s no reason for the Government to pay the landlord.
“If unfortunately you lose your job the state can then step in with benefits to pay the rent. But I don’t want anybody to be put in the position you’ve described.
“But at the moment to simply say all rent is suspended – and that means there’s no income to landlords for two years or whatever it may be – it is inevitably, we’ve looked at this before that the state will then have to compensate all landlords.