Longer Tenancy Plans Would Give Renters More Security, Government Says

The move could mean an end to so-called revenge evictions.
Tenants currently feel unable to challenge poor property standards for fear of tenancies being terminated.
Tenants currently feel unable to challenge poor property standards for fear of tenancies being terminated.
Peter Horrox via Getty Images

Longer tenancy terms could be introduced to give renters more security.

A minimum tenancy term of three years should be introduced to give people renting homes in England greater protection, the government says.

The move could mean an end to so-called revenge evictions, where tenants are told to leave if they complain to their landlords about problems.

As well as helping renters put down roots, the government says it would also give landlords longer term financial security.

Labour said the plans do not go far enough as landlords could still force tenants out by putting up rents.

In plans to be published on Monday, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire proposes the introduction of a minimum three-year tenancy term, with a six-month break clause.

Data shows that 81% of rental contracts are assured shorthold tenancies with a minimum fixed term of just six or 12 months, despite people staying in their rented homes for an average of nearly four years.

Although tenants and landlords can already agree longer terms between themselves, the majority choose not to do so.

The government says this can lead to tenants feeling insecure, unable to challenge poor property standards for fear of tenancies being terminated, and unable to plan for their future or get involved in the local community.

Under the proposals, tenants would be able to leave before the end of the minimum term, but they would have greater protection if they wanted to stay for an extended period of time.

Some types of tenant -– for instance those in student accommodation – could be exempt from the rule.

In a statement, Brokenshire said: “It is deeply unfair when renters are forced to uproot their lives or find new schools for their children at short notice due to the terms of their rental contract.

“Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities.

“That’s why I am determined to act, bringing in longer tenancies which will bring benefits to tenants and landlords alike.”

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “Any fresh help for renters is welcome but this latest promise is meaningless if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking up the rent.

He said Labour plans included controls on rents, an end to no-fault evictions and protection against substandard properties.

A statement from Shelter said the plans were “hugely encouraging”.

The statement read: “Losing a short-term tenancy is the main driver of #homelessness and causes instability for renting families—longer tenancies would be a step in the right direction.”

Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Landlords Association said: “We would accept that the flexibility of the current Assured Shorthold Tenancy isn’t used as effectively as it could be, and that we should be looking to find ways to ensure that tenants are offered the kind of tenancies they need at the time they need them.

“That means thinking about how to modernise a model devised 30 years ago, to take account of the changes in the people who are renting and the way they live their lives. How will that be achieved by moving to a more rigid system, more reminiscent of the regulated model the current system replaced?”

Lambert added that the conservatives derided the policy when it was put forward by their opponents in the past two general election campaigns.

“It’s hard not to see this as more of a political move aimed at the renter vote than a genuine effort to improve how the rented market works for all those involved,” he said.

A consultation on the proposals will run until the end of the August.