Assured shorthold tenancy agreements have been a staple of the private rental sector since they were first introduced all the way back in the distant past of 1988. The advantages to tenant and landlord are obvious.
The landlord knows that he (or she) won’t need to go through the pain of finding another tenant for the next six months, and that if desired, they can easily start proceedings to remove the current tenant as soon as four months have passed.
For the tenant, there’s the assurance of a home for at least six months, after which they’re no longer tied down and are free to change lodgings as they see fit.
It’s a great system. It works, and has kept the rental sector happy for the last three decades.
But changes are afoot, and the government is currently consulting on plans to lengthen the minimum tenancy term to three years.
They cite ‘increased security’ for renters, along with the ability to ‘put down roots’ in their communities.
It’s a terrible idea, and here’s why.
The government freely admits that its figures show most renters living in a property for at least four years. They’re not having a problem putting down roots, and if they have a good relationship with their landlord, then they’re not lacking in security either.
An increased minimum term isn’t going to stop troublesome tenants being evicted, and it will only affect the tiniest proportion of renters. So why do it at all? Why even put the idea out there?
After all if a landlord really wants to get someone out, and the tenants haven’t broken the terms of their agreement, the landlord can simply raise the rent. Sure, tenants have recourse to the rent assessment committee, but tacking an extra £50 per month on isn’t likely to be ruled excessive, but will still make life that little less comfortable for the tenants. And if they still won’t go, then at least you’re getting an extra £50 for beer money.
In short, the government’s plan is both toothless and pointless. The proposal put forward in response by Labour, is not.
In typical pseudo-socialist fashion, Her Majesty’s loyal opposition hopes to put all of the power into the hands of renters – taking away most of the rights landlords are used to, and which are enshrined in law.
Landlords will no longer be able to force out tenants through the trick of putting up the rent, as whole raft of yet unspecified rent control measures are set to be floated.
No fault evictions will be a thing of the past.
Essentially this makes the three year minimum tenancy even more pointless. It makes the current six month AST pointless.
It means you absolutely cannot end the tenancy unless your tenant actually does something heinously against the rules.
And if you want to move back into the property? Or let your children live there? Tough. Even if you have a legitimate, non-malicious reason for wanting your current tenants out, you just have to live with the fact that they’ll be there as long as they want.
The old reliable section 8 and section 21 notices won’t be worth the paper they’re written on.
We don’t have a crystal ball, and we don’t know when (if ever) Labour will be in a position to push their version of this legislation through, but if they manage it, the private rental sector will start to look like a public service.