Government promises more security for renters. Should we believe the hype?

We have long been campaigning for private renters to get more security from eviction, so they can make their house or flat a proper home.

So, on the face of it, the government’s promise that the changes in today’s Housing White Paper “will help renters have the security they need to be able to plan for the future” is great news. It follows on from the announcement of the letting fees ban, focussing on the concerns and needs of private tenants as consumers.

Unfortunately, in contrast to the letting fees ban, the meat of the proposals don’t really live up to the ambition. They will likely mean that only a few thousand of England’s eleven million renters are able to get a more secure tenancy, when millions need it.

There is a major risk that the contrast between the hype and promise of more security and renters’ lived experience will leave renting families feeling angry and frustrated.

But there is still time for a change in approach and the government has said that they’re going to carry on looking at this. Today’s announcement is the beginning not end of the process. Over the coming months we will be working to try to get the government walking the walk as well as talking the talk.

Today’s insecure private renting

Under the current legal setup, private renting families face the prospect of being forced to move every year or six months at the end of their existing contract.

That just isn’t fit for the growing number of people are being forced into private renting with no option to buy or rent an affordable home.

For example, 1 in 4 families with kids now privately rent, up from 1 in 10 just over a decade ago. And a growing number of older people now live in private rented homes. They need secure homes where they can put down roots, not to live nearly nomadic lives hopping from one place to the next.

If you want to know what insecure renting feels like, just watch these clips from Victoria Derbyshire earlier on.

At its worst, the insecurity of renting is contributing to the rapid growth of homelessness, with loss of a private tenancy now the leading cause of homelessness.

Walking the walk as well as talking the talk

The government’s talk on security is genuinely welcome. The focus on renting and the need for security is good news and shouldn’t be underestimated. It marks a major shift in tone and acknowledgement of the needs and concerns of private tenants, in line with the announcement of the letting fees ban announcement last year.

The problem comes when you look at whether the plan to deliver more security matches the promise.

The government has said that they are going to try to increase the availability of more secure private tenancies by getting institutional ‘build to rent’ investors to offer them. And the problem with this is simple to understand – it’s one of scale.

The overwhelming majority of private renters, don’t live in ‘build to rent’ homes – and won’t for the foreseeable future. To see what I mean, just look at the chart below. The big black block on the left represents the 4.5 million households (families and individuals) who now rent privately. And the tiny sliver of red represents all of the existing and future pipeline of ‘build to rent’ homes in England; 12,000 existing and 66,000 planned.

build to rent

Even if there was a tenfold increase in the number of build to rent projects tomorrow, the overwhelming majority of private renting families would still be left without more security.

So ‘build to rent’ is just a drop in the ocean. And hyping up the prospect of getting more security without following through with meaningful changes, will just leave private renters feeling sore. They can’t afford to wait 10, 20 or 50 years for this change.

There is a marked contrast between this and the leadership that the government showed by announcing that it will ban letting fees last year. Through that announcement, the government showed they understood that voluntary measures and tweaks just can’t protect renters as consumers – the market is just too broken.

What renters need now is recognition that the same applies to security. As I said at the top, they say in today’s announcement that this is something that they’re going to continue looking at. So we will be working hard to persuade them of that, so they start walk the walk as well as talking the talk.

Sign our petition to join Shelter’s campaign for a change in the law to give private renters more security to stay for the long term.

  1. I am a landlord and also support shelter, I rent my house as a responsible landlord making sure the house is safe and maintained properly. I also do not ask for more rent each year. In principle i support greater security of tenure as well as regulation to improve standards of rented property but have a number of concerns
    1. I can only rent on a short term basis as i will be needing the capital from selling the house to relocate. This highlights the issue with renting ie landlords rent as an investment in the UK. If the length of contract was increased this may reduce the number of properties available and therby contribute to pushing up rents due to less supply?
    2. If there was say 3 year agreements, there would need to be built into that contractural requirements of landlords and tenants responsibilities which if breached negate the agreement and a get out clause if a lamdlord neede to sell the property. There would also need to be some flexibility over increases in rent but only within a narrowly defined range
    Im not sure it is possible to compare the market here to Germnay where housing is seen less as a speculative investment and more to do with homes. The whole of the UK market is geared up in this way so just to change the private rented sector in isolation may be unrealistic??? Have you considered looking at the role of agents in renting and the big take they cream off and often for doing absolutely nothing. Maybe a register maintained and managed by housing associations would be a fairer and less costly way of renting out?? These are just idle thoughts and i am looking at this from both a landlords angle and also a tenants…..
    I would be interested in your thoughts on this BUT i really think it iis crucial to involve both sides in any report or review you undertake…..2.

    1. If there was say 3 year agreements, there would need to be built into that contractural requirements of landlords and tenants responsibilities which if breached negate the agreement and a get out clause if a lamdlord neede to sell the property.

  2. You sound like an ‘accidental’ landlord Don? One that enjoys keeping his options open and enjoys the freedom of choice that having a tenant paying his mortgage extends. ASTs certainly help you do that. If only they did it for tenants too..

    Your ‘freedom to sell’ does not trump your tenant’s right to a stable and secure home though. And the law should be changed to reflect that. As it is, just a hint that the landlord wants to sell the home you’re living in leaves you second guessing them from that day on; hesitant to make any big decisions that can badly backfire.

    If ASTs even went up to at least 3 years in law (and frankly under a Tory Govt I don’t think they ever will) landlords could just sell with the tenants in situ. That should be a legal condition of longer tenancies. It’s the only fair compromise.

  3. Most professional landlords do not want tenants to move . As long as they pay their rent respect the property and conduct themselves in a proper manner they can stay as long as they like. As a professional landlady myself it is usually the tenant that chooses to leave because their circumstances have changed . Most professional landlords are long term investors and only ask tenants to leave their property if they don’t keep to the agreement they signed up to in the tenancy agreement. We are not in this business to make people homeless we are in it to house people and enjoy doing so . There is great satisfaction in being able to provide someone with a good safe place to live.

  4. Interesting graph.
    When will Shelter and the government notice the real problem, SECTION 24 of the finance act.
    This must be repealed or it will be a disaster, like it was in Ireland.
    A punitive tax to private landlords,on turnover rather than profit that will decrease that black chart by thousands and thousands,the problem will explode!
    Private landlords are/will be evicting and selling in droves,why?
    Would you pay tax on a loss?
    Yet limited companies are unaffected.
    Mortgage interest payments are a business expense, not tax relief, it’s grossly unfair.
    Also,Only 7% of tenants are evicted by landlords, the vast majority are perfectly happy, decide when they want to vacate, most of mine have been long term, WITHOUT any increase in rent.
    Length of AST will therefor become irrelevant.
    Private landlords are exiting,yet they have played an important role by filling the gap.
    Work with us,not against.

    1. Section 24 is needed to level out the playing field with first time buyers and reduce reckless over borrowing on multiple properties putting the economy at risk.

      I would be happy as an alternative to sec 24 would be a ban on interest only mortgages for landlords.

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