Better tenancies for families in rental homes

New measures will encourage longer fixed-term, family-friendly tenancies and raise standards in the private rented sector, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced this week.

Tenants will be able to request longer tenancies that provide stability for their family, avoid hidden fees when renting a home and demand a fair deal from their landlords and letting agents.

Mr Pickles said the government is determined to match support for home ownership with steps to improve the rental market, without strangling the sector with unnecessary rules and red tape.

A new package of measures will ensure sensible reforms are made to the sector, so tenants can get the best deal when they rent a home.

A model tenancy agreement, developed with the sector, will clearly set out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and provide the rental market with an industry benchmark for written tenancy agreements.

– the model agreement will ensure families can benefit from longer tenancies, without changing the existing legal framework for the rental market – longer tenancies will give families greater certainty and security, especially for those with children at school, and reduce costs for both tenants and landlords who will not have to pay letting agents to arrange frequent contract renewals – tenants will be able to access better information so they know the types of tenancies they can request

A tenants’ charter will ensure all tenants know what to expect from their tenancy and, if something goes wrong, where to go for help.

– this will include greater transparency about lettings agents’ fees, helping to stop unreasonable practices and unfair charges, and ensuring would-be tenants know the full costs before they sign up to any contract – the charter will work alongside the new compulsory redress schemes for lettings agents, which will be able to investigate agents that have not been clear about fees and, where a complaint is upheld, require compensation is paid to the tenant – the new £1 billion Build to Rent Fund, which has already identified forty-five potential schemes, and £10 billion of government-backed guarantees will encourage institutional investment in the sector – this new approach will revolutionise the way new homes are built for the rental market, and provide more choice and better quality for tenants – boosting the supply of rental homes, backed by a sensible regulatory framework, will support longer-term tenancies, and increase competition between landlords offering decent, reasonably priced accommodation

The government will encourage mortgage lenders to follow the recent change in policy by the Nationwide, so buy-to-let borrowers can offer longer initial fixed periods in their tenancy agreements.

These initiatives will complement the government’s support for home ownership and steps to help hard-working people with the cost of living.

Mr Pickles said:

“The private rented market is a vital asset to this country, and plays an important role providing flexible accommodation for those who do not want to buy, or are saving up for a deposit.

“The last thing we want to do is hurt hard-working tenants by increasing costs and strangling the sector with red tape. But families deserve stability for their children, and all tenants deserve a good and transparent service from their landlords and lettings agents.

“Today’s proposals will raise the quality and choice of rental accommodation, root out the cowboys and rogue operators in the sector, and give tenants the confidence to request longer fixed-term, family-friendly tenancies that meet their needs.”

Today’s move will support existing measures to attract new investment into the sector, including:

– the new Private Rented Sector Taskforce, which is promoting the Build to Rent Fund and the guarantees and liaising between the applicants, councils and government – new primary legislation will require all letting and managing agents in England to belong to an approved redress scheme; this will offer a clear route for landlords and tenants to pursue complaints, weed out the cowboys that give agents a bad name, and drive up standards – a £3 million fund for councils in England will help them tackle acute and complex problems with rogue landlords, and build on work to tackle ‘beds in sheds’, where £2.6 million was provided to 9 councils and backed by a ministerial task force; more than 500 illegally rented outhouses have been discovered since 2011 and action is being taken against the owners – proposals that require private landlords to make simple checks on new tenants will ensure they are entitled to be in this country – the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012     will provide magistrates’ courts with the power to impose unlimited fines on landlords who are found guilty of not meeting their statutory responsibilities; these powers will be complemented by Schedule 16 to the Crime and Courts Act 2013    , which will allow the courts to take account of an offenders assets as well as his income which will help tackle rogue landlords who have limited documented income but significant assets – the Mortgage Repossessions (Protection of Tenants etc) Act 2010     has increased protection for tenants from repossession if their landlord faces mortgage difficulties

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