Both the Labour and the Liberal Democrat leaders have supported more regulation of the private rented sector, while their Conservative rival favoured a more hands-off approach, according to interviews conducted by Rightmove.
Labour’s Ed Miliband argued renters need more stability, because at the moment rents can jump massively from one year to the next.
He said: “To combat this we will introduce three-year tenancies with a ceiling on excessive rent increases, though tenants will still be able to give notice when they want.
“We will also ban the letting fees charged by agents to tenants – up to £500 every time someone moves – to us, that just looks like a rip-off.”
The Liberal Democrat’s Nick Clegg stated that they led the coalition's work to tackle landlords who were not behaving fairly, legislating to stop revenge evictions.
“The next step is to make sure that renters have more stability – just because you are renting doesn’t mean you don’t want to put down roots, decorate the way you want and feel settled in your home,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Conservative’s David Cameron said that while standards and landlords’ professionalism need to keep improving, the risk is that more red tape and unnecessary regulation would make life worse for tenants.
“That is why we’ve been very careful to strike a balance – and I believe we’re doing so,” he commented, citing their Model Tenancy Agreement to reduce agency fees and new code of practice for landlords to give councils more powers to target “the rogues”.
“Every step of the way we’ve rejected Labour’s calls for rent controls. Why? Because this interference would be disastrous for tenants, with fewer houses to rent, higher monthly payments and poor quality housing,” argued Mr Cameron.
“We’ve seen the proof with Labour’s calls for energy price controls – they actually have the reverse effect of making energy bills more expensive.”
Rightmove surveyed 1,418 people since the start of April, and found that the single biggest concern among home-hunters is that house prices are too high (38 per cent), with a lack of choice in the market coming in second (17 per cent).
On the issue of housing market growth pricing out first-time buyers, all the party leaders mentioned their proposed policies to build new homes.
Mr Clegg restated his pledge to accelerate supply to meet demand, with 300,000 new homes a year by the end of the next parliament, something he said the other major parties were yet to match “and appear to have failed to grasp the scale of the challenge”.
Mr Miliband set Labour’s target to at least 200,000 homes built a year by 2020, along with giving local authorities the power to give first time buyers priority access to new homes in areas of housing growth..
Mr Cameron meanwhile noted that there are 700,000 more new homes than there were at the end of 2009 and committed to increasing that figure.