The idea of the property-owning democracy has deep roots and has long defined housing policy in this country, with various schemes launched designed to help first-time buyers gain a first step on the housing ladder. But with a growing number of voters never expected to own their own home, it would appear that the government is now afraid to ignore renters.
Research last year found that one in three of Britain’ millennial generation will never own their own home, which may explain why the government plans to give tenants a minimum three-year contract – but allow them to terminate the tenancy agreement earlier if they wish.
Around four in five tenancies in England and Wales are set at six months or 12 months. However, the longer tenancies proposed by the housing, communities and local government secretary, James Brokenshire, in a consultation paper to be published later today, would prevent landlords serving tenants notice to leave at short notice.
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.”
But the National Landlords Association (NLA) has criticised the government’s proposal for longer contracts, describing the plan as a “political move aimed at the renter vote.”
Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA, commented: “In his speech to the Conservative Party conference last October, Sajid Javid announced plans for a consultation on how to encourage longer tenancies. That's been the tone of the discussion ever since - consultation and encouragement. Frankly, right now, I feel we've been misled.
“This is supposed to be about meeting the needs of the consumer. NLA research with tenants finds consistently that around 40% of tenants want longer tenancies, but 40% do not. 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. 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.
“This is a policy which the Conservatives derided 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.”