Can The Government Really Provide Family-Friendly Tenancies?

Last month Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced the Government’s new measures to encourage longer fixed term, family-friendly tenancies and raise standards in the private rented sector including tenants being able to ask for longer tenancies, the use of a model tenancy agreement, a Tenants’ Charter and a letting agents’ compulsory redress scheme able to award compensation if agents have not been transparent about their fees.

Good landlords welcome good tenants and will compromise on obtaining the highest rent for a good tenant remaining in a property. In practice tenants spend an average of three years in a property. A good relationship between landlords and tenants means tenants get stability, especially important if they have children and schooling considerations, and avoid having to move repeatedly or finding deposit monies. Landlords save on the cost and trouble of finding new tenants, avoid void properties and incur fewer fees.

There is no compulsory regulation of letting agents notwithstanding that they are dealing with peoples’ homes and manage large sums of money. Both landlords and tenants deserve a good and transparent service from letting agents so we always advise using a reputable letting agent with membership of professional bodies such as ARLA and ARMA.

The Government’s measures may not change tenancies. The private rented sector will always be affected by market conditions. Landlords will look for new tenants paying increased rents. The Government’s expectation that the “bedroom tax” limiting housing benefit would lead to lower private rents failed as rental properties are in high demand so landlords have ended tenancies of housing benefit recipients and relet to private tenants at higher rents. Other interventions in the sector have not been successful. The Tenant Deposit scheme is not complied with universally and its requirements remain uncertain following Court decisions. Law Commission proposals to simplify tenancies were never introduced.

Moreover whilst any proposals to encourage long term tenancies, weed out bad agents and improve letting standards are welcome, the Government’s reference to “family-friendly tenancies” will sound hollow to those families having to move or facing eviction because, following the introduction of the “bedroom tax”, they cannot afford to pay the difference between their revised housing benefit payment and their rent.

If you have any queries concerning the matters raised please contact
Jeremy Teall, Partner and Housing Management Team Leader on
020 8567 3477 or e-mail