We’ve been campaigning for longer tenancies in the private rented sector for a few years now. But we still get asked the question ‘is this something that renters actually want?’
The short answer is yes: national polling for Shelter by YouGov shows clearly that 7 in 10 want it. The longer answer takes a little more explanation.
When we talk about ‘longer tenancies’, we don’t mean locking renters in to contracts for years and years without having the opportunity to move if their family grows or they get a new job. I’m a renter, so I’d be the first to tell you getting locked into a really long contracts is something that many renters would worry about committing to.
What we mean is giving renters the guaranteed option of staying in a home for five years if they want it, with some certainty over what their rent will be, while still giving them the flexibility to move if they give their landlord notice. In practice this means a new type of tenancy, that we call the Stable Rental Contract.
The Stable Rental contract:
There are a couple of reasons this would be a really important improvement for renters in England, and one we think is urgently needed.
It’s needed because losing a private tenancy has for a few years been the main reason that families become homeless. So the lack of longer, more secure tenancies leads directly to an increase in homelessness. Giving renters longer tenancies with rent predictability would help to cut homelessness.
But it isn’t just about those people most at risk of homelessness. It’s also needed because bringing up children in the private rented sector is now becoming the norm. 1 in 4 families with a child now rent privately, up from 1 in 10 only a decade ago. And every child deserves the chance to grow up in a stable home where their family doesn’t face the constant threat of eviction, with all the stress and disruption that entails.
Even if they don’t become homeless, they still face being forced to move school, and to leave behind their friends and everything else that allows families to put down proper roots.
And it’s needed because overwhelmingly most renters want it. The evidence for this appetite is pretty irrefutable.
Every year Shelter (with kind support from British Gas) commissions the country’s largest survey of private tenants. Over 4,500 renters take part from across England. And when asked whether they thought having a longer tenancy, with predictable rents and the flexibility to move would improve renting for them or their child, 70% said yes.
“Thinking about your future housing to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? Having a tenancy that lasts for 3 or 5 years, with predictable rents, which I could get out of with 2 months’ notice would improve renting for me or my child”
Renters with children feel even more strongly than the rest. So while 70% of all renters agree that this kind of longer tenancy would improve renting, 73% of renters with children agree – and almost 49% strongly agree.
And this follows the pattern of what renting families say is important to them when they’re looking for a new home. 91% say that the property being somewhere that they will be able to stay for the long term is important to them. And 84% say that the property having predictable rents is important.
“Please imagine you were looking for a new private rented property…How important, if at all, would each of the following factors be to you?”
Unfortunately, although longer tenancies are on offer in lots of other European countries, very few English renters are able to access them at the moment. There are a few examples of landlords beginning to offer them here following some gentle encouragement under the Coalition government, but we’re talking about a tiny minority able to get these tenancies, compared to the overwhelming majority of renters who want them.
With house prices continuing to spiral upwards and fewer families able to access social housing, it seems clear that private renting is going to be the only option for a growing number of people in England. They need a better deal from renting, one that puts them at less risk of homelessness and gives them the security to bring up a family. And for the rent they pay, they deserve the longer tenancies they want.