The main body representing landlords’ interests has reacted angrily to government plans to introduce mandatory three-year tenancies, with a six-month break clause, to give tenants more security.
Tenants typically stay in their homes for nearly four years, according to government figures. However, 81% of tenancy agreements are assured shorthold tenancies with a minimum fixed term of six or 12 months.
Although tenants and landlords can agree to longer terms, most don’t 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.
Secretary of State for Communities James Brokenshire MP explains: “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.”
In response, the National Landlords Association (NLA) says that the new proposals will be too “rigid” and that it has been “misled”.
Richard Lambert, the NLA’s chief executive, says that when plans for a consultation on longer tenancies were announced last October, he believed the “tone of the discussion” was one of “consultation and encouragement”. He now says he feels “misled” as he believes the new plans should be about making existing tenancy agreements more flexible rather than introducing a minimum three-year rental contract.
He points out that NLA research with tenants has found that around 40% of tenants want longer tenancies, but 40% are happy with the status quo.
He says: “More than 50% consistently say that they are happy with the tenancy length they were offered, and 20% tell us that when they asked for a longer tenancy, they got it.”
“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,” he adds. “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?
“It's like urging someone to update their 1980s brick-style mobile phone, but instead of giving them a smartphone, offering them a Bakelite dial phone plugged into the wall.”
The consultation, which will seek views from landlords, tenants and related organisations on the three-year tenancy plan and other ways to introduce a longer minimum tenancy, will run until 26 August 2018.