What’s the down-side to giving people who rent from private landlords longer and more secure tenancies? I think we should.
We know that life isn’t going to get any easier for first-time buyers: mortgages are still hard to get and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Life is getting worse for those that want and need social housing: fewer homes being built, more rents at near-market levels and more people being diverted into the private rented homes anyway.
Homes let by private landlords will become more important for those locked out of social housing and homeownership. The key point about these tenures (well traditionally) is that they provide long-term security and stability.
So how do we provide private renters with more security and stability as well? One simple measure would be to provide those who rent privately with more security in their home. If it has to be a home for the long-term, people need more rights in that home, especially if that is the home in which people raise their family. Why not have a minimum tenancy length of 3, 4 or 5 years?
Increasingly, I struggle to see the down-side. People talk about the impact on landlords. The burden of ‘red tape’ and the inability to get the property back immediately may cause them to pull their homes out of the rented market. But those homes are likely to then be sold, leading to more homes becoming available to buy, especially for first-time buyers.
In the past, buy-to-let landlords helped increase the number of homes being built. Developers knew they could sell their new homes to landlords ready to buy them. But that’s not a sustainable way of keeping housing supply up: it helped fuel the boom and it resulted in the empty city-centre flats in many places – when the landlords went away, no one wanted to buy them to live in.
If tenants were given more rights, those landlords who remained in the market would be those most committed to providing long-term and good quality homes for tenants. And it would give people more real choice by putting the different tenures on a more equal footing.