Renters need a stable home too
20 Sep 2016
Not convinced short-term contracts are unfair on renters? We think much can be done to improve rental contracts. Please, if you have time, read on to find out why.
A stable home gives you security. It helps you to put down roots and gives you the chance to plan for the future. However, if you’re renting – living on six to 12 month contracts, life is uncertain and unpredictable.
1 in 4 families are now renting privately. If you’re a family renting on a short term contract, you don’t have the opportunity of a secure place to call home: a place where you can settle and not have to worry about where you’ll be in a year’s time – never mind things like where your children might be at school.
That’s why we’re campaigning for Housing Minister Gavin Barwell to make five-year rental contracts an option for renters. If necessary, renters can leave the contract early, but this longer-term contract would give renters the choice to stay in their home for a secure period of time.
According to the English Housing Survey, renting families are nine times as likely to have moved in the last year than families who own their homes. Stability shouldn’t just be something for home owners.
We already know that 7 in 10 renters want the option of longer contracts.
We already know that renters have much more stability in Europe – in Norway and Germany, renters have the option of permanent tenancies. In Belgium, renters are protected from eviction for nine years. These are just two examples, and there are many more. If other countries can have longer-term rental systems, why can’t we?
We already know that the main reason families become homeless is because their rental contract ends before they can find a new place to live. This means that longer contracts have the ability to reduce homelessness.
We need a fairer deal for renting families.
We recently asked people to share their stories about renting and it was clear how much stress it causes.
Amanda got in touch to explain how she has moved five times in the last nine years and “worries about the debt” caused by the moves. We also heard from Rachel, whose son has just started junior school. She’s on a two-month rolling contract, so if her landlord decides to end the contract and she can’t find a new home within the area, she’ll have to move her son to a different school. She said: “the anxiety it causes is immense”.
The solution to this instability is clear: longer rental contracts.
So how would it work?
Renters would have the opportunity to stay in their home for a minimum of five years, but they wouldn’t be locked in. Renters with five year contracts would be able to leave their home at any time by giving two months’ notice. If their family grows or a new job opportunity comes up, they may well want to move. But if they don’t, they can be certain about where they’ll be living for the foreseeable future.
What about landlords?
Five-year tenancies would also give landlords more security, reducing periods of vacancy and lost rent. They would still be able to sell their home if they needed to.
According to Shelter’s recent landlords survey – about a third of landlords say they like the idea of longer contracts and would try them. Another third are undecided and would like to see them work in practice.
Five year contracts wouldn’t mean that landlords are unable to evict any “bad tenants”. There will still be plenty of reasons that landlords can evict renters – like anti-social behaviour or rent arrears. If a renter breaks the terms of their contract, then the landlord can evict them. However, increasing the length of a rental contract would give security to tenants who can currently be evicted for no reason.
Join the campaign
With house prices rising and social housing hard to come by, private renting is the only option for a growing number of people in England. Renters need a better deal: one that puts them at less risk of homelessness and gives them the security to bring up a family.
It’s impossible to call a place home if you don’t feel settled. Longer rental contracts would give renters the chance to truly have a place they can call home.