CAMBRIDGE City Council is calling for longer term tenancies in the private rented sector.
With many people unable to afford to buy a home, the number of households nationally who are renting privately has almost doubled over the last 20 years. It is estimated that up to a third of households in Cambridge could now be renting privately.
Most tenants are on short-term contracts. This works well for some, but others want to remain in their homes for longer, for all sorts of reasons.
Under new government proposals, which were recently consulted on, all new tenancies would be offered for three years, although with an opportunity for landlord and tenant to leave the agreement immediately after the first six months if dissatisfied.
Once the initial six months is over, a tenant would be able to give notice and leave at any time. A landlord would only be able to end the tenancy if they had ‘reasonable grounds’ for doing so (eg non-payment of rent, anti-social behaviour, or if the landlord wanted to sell the property or move in themselves).
Rents would only increase once a year, with tenants knowing from the outset what rents will be charged.
In its response to the consultation, the council is supporting the principle of longer term tenancies, although would want to see some exceptions, such as for students.
The council would also want an exemption for people at risk of homelessness who are offered private rented housing through the council’s social lettings agency, Town Hall Lettings.
There is a risk that requiring landlords in these circumstances to offer tenancies of three years or more could make them more reluctant to offer housing to people on welfare benefits – including those who are working but still not earning enough to pay their rent.
Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “We know that, for some tenants, the feeling of security that a longer term tenancy can offer will be a huge help.
“Longer tenancies can help families to put down roots, help children to settle better in school and help people to feel more part of the community. Some tenants worry about removal costs, agency fees, and how much the rent might go up.
“And although we know that the majority of local landlords will deal appropriately with complaints, some tenants will worry that if they complain about anything they may be asked to leave.
“Knowing that they will be able to stay longer, and that they will not be hit with more fees or unexpected rent increases should go a long way to helping people feel more settled in their homes.
“However, more still needs to be done if people are to live settled lives and have better housing choices. There needs to be more government investment in social housing to provide more homes that ordinary people can afford to live in.
“There also needs to be more freedom for councils to spend the money they already have on developing new homes, and more freedom to borrow money for building. There also needs to be a review of the welfare system so that those on benefits – including those in work – are able to afford to rent privately.”