The Labour party has announced plans to assist renters with capped rent rises, pegging them to the rate of inflation, and standard three-year minimum tenancies. Unveiling his party's housing policies in the run up to the general election, Labour leader Ed Miliband said that he wanted to stop private tenants from being "ripped off." As well as controlling rent increases, Labour want renters to have access to greater information about the property and its history, including the rate of rent the previous tenants had paid.

The plans have been criticised by Labour's rivals, with London Mayor Boris Johnson - one of the loudest critics - calling the idea a "disastrous policy" and claiming it would reduce housing supply.

Private landlords have also reacted angrily to the plans, with many highlighting the seemingly easy ways of circumventing the proposed rules, such as simply raising rent each time inflation increases.

In fact, as recently as last year, Labour own Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds MP said that Labour didn't want to impose rent controls, so controlled rent is hardly a cornerstone of Labour's housing policy.

One of the main criticisms levelled at the plans is that it will legitimise mid-tenancy rent rises, something that at present typically doesn't happen due to the nature of common six-month assured short hold tenancy agreements. Another criticism - according to the Association of Residential Landlords - is that it will discourage private investment in the housing sector and will force landlords and estate agents to recoup losses in rental income via other channels, such as increased fees.

But that doesn't mean we should do nothing to redress the balance of power between landlords and renters, something that has been tipped heavily in the favour of landlords since the buy-to-let boom of the 90s. After all, it makes political sense to appeal to the embattled private tenants, they outnumber private landlords by six-to-one. 

A study published this month (April 2015) by London removal company Kiwi Movers found that as many as one in eight private tenants who have rented in the last five years have experienced problems getting their tenancy deposit back. Over half said they'd lost either some or all of their deposit after checking out and it is exactly this sort of statistic - no matter how many landlords argue it was fair to withhold the deposits in the case of their tenant - that will drive renters to vote for the party that best represents their needs in this regard.

The UK's private tenants, making up a total of 4.2 million households, are increasingly being viewed as a key demographic in the upcoming general election. In fact, there are more renters voting in this election than in any election history and each party has identified the growing disillusionment among the private rented sector and is tailoring its policies accordingly. No party has quite managed to offer an irresistible lure to private tenants, but it's good that electoral influence is finally making its way to the rented flats and house shares of the UK.