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Are Longer Tenancies a Good Idea

During the party conference season, the subject of longer tenancies in the private sector again reared its ugly head. We have to accept, that Shelter and Crisis will not let the subject drop, convinced as they are that only a minimum 3-year tenancy will give tenants the security that they believe they crave.

Statistics prove that in most parts of the country, there is no history of landlords evicting after the initial 6-month tenancy. I have said before that special measures are called for in the areas where this is prevalent – London and the South being the prime culprits. But in many parts of the country, landlords want good, long-standing tenants and longer tenancies are common, with the average length of tenancy now two years.

This is as likely to be down to the tenants who welcome the flexibility of the private sector, which allows tenants to change areas for work or to be near family as to the landlord deciding to swap tenants, with the consequent re-decoration almost certainly required. It is not unusual for a good landlord to house several parts of a family in different properties.

However, whatever the statistics prove, Shelter has the ear of the political parties and they will continue to press for longer tenancies.

Before the last election, Labour were campaigning for a mandatory 3-year tenancy; the Conservatives believed that there should be an option for a longer, family-friendly tenancy whilst still allowing the 6-month tenancy, should that be preferred. The Conservative conference talked about several measures they wished to introduce and included an incentive for landlords offering longer tenancies.

I do not believe mandatory 3-year tenancies are necessary; the majority of landlords, having offered a 6-month tenancy to start will not seek to evict the good tenants. However, given the promises of massive building of social housing, tenants may start to feel that a compare and contrast exercise may make social housing seem a better alternative to private renting. 

Social housing, on the face of it, can offer a long-term tenancy, as well as the possibility of right-to-buy. I would not suggest landlords offer to sell their properties to the tenant (though this can sometimes happen and provide a beneficial sale for the landlord ready to sell), but longer tenancies, combined with properties in a wider variety of areas, may be enough for the private sector to retain its’ place as favoured sector for generation rent.

The subject of longer tenancies will not go away. Those in favour, for the sake of families, will continue to chivvy politicians until the legislation is introduced that will force landlords to take tenants for a longer period. If this happens, private landlords must double their referencing procedures and if in doubt, keep the prospective tenant out.

It is your business, your investment, your return, at risk; you owe it to yourself, to safeguard your property; the tenant that wants greater security should be prepared to prove to the landlord that they deserve it.

For advice on buy to let issues – General Knowledge   

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