Fixed Term Tenancies Under Threat from IPPR

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The latest to call for private rental sector change is the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). Don’t you, as a private landlord, love it when the great and the good feel their interference, on behalf of the vulnerable, is a necessary protection for the private sector tenant. 

The IPPR believe themselves to be the country’s ‘leading progressive think-tank’ and the conclusion they have now reached is that fixed term tenancies should be consigned to the rubbish bin and in their place should be a mandatory open-ended agreement. Another attack on section 21 as an open-ended agreement would end the no blame evictions. 

In my experience, in many cases where the section 21, ‘no blame notice’ was issued, there were very real grounds that could be used to evict – landlords chose not to use them because i) this would mean families would be deemed intentionally homeless, and therefore would receive little support from the providers of social housing and ii) eviction on a ground would mean that few other landlords would accept them – either social or private sector.

However, this construction of the situation seems not to have occurred to these ‘thinkers’, or do they believe that private landlords should be impeded as much as possible from evicting?  They shouldn’t.

The IPPR also said ‘the law should also be changed to stop landlords evicting tenants within the first three years of a tenancy because they want to sell their home’. Whilst I can testify to the many, many landlords who would not dream of disposing of someone’s home within 3 years, there are areas where this does happen. Rocketing property prices in the South and South East may mean this happens, as investors seek to realise their potential profits by disposing of properties; this surely indicates a need for prohibitions on this in areas where it is prevalent, rather than constraining all landlords?

Statistics prove that regarding length of tenancy, in many areas, most landlords have happy relationships with their tenants and want only a stable income from the properties they provide. Evictions and then re-tenanting will require re-decoration. As 5 or 7 years would seem a reasonable programme for re-decoration for long-term tenants, why evict and have to do it earlier?

A research fellow with IPPR stated ‘Preventing landlords from evicting to sell in the first three years of a tenancy will give much greater stability to families’. I dispute that. Landlords are giving families stability; they are accepting delays in receiving rent when there is a move onto Universal Credit; some landlords are treated and act, as though they are charities. 

There is another situation where landlords, through no inclination of theirs, are forced to sell properties and cannot, surely, be held to a 3 year tenancy minimum. If financial problems IPPR, tenancies, landlord, tenants, mean the owner cannot pay his mortgage, there is little he can do but hand the keys back. It is then up to the mortgagor to decide whether they will honour the 3-year tenancy, but if the bank/building society have no experience of private renting, the tenant may find themselves once again looking for accommodation, so this change in legislation may not help all and I believe, considerably less than it believes.

The 1988 Housing Act introduced assured shorthold tenancies to persuade landlords that letting properties would help the many people in need of housing, but that there was a simple route to recovering possession. It seems that over the years since it was introduced, its’ message of encouragement to landlords is being eroded, and with it the housing options of the poorest. The IPPR report is just the latest shot across the bows of landlords.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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