Eric Pickles recently announced the government’s wish to introduce a Tenants’ Charter which at its heart is the desire to create longer, more family-friendly tenancy agreements. The charter is also intended to be a simple guide for tenants, suggesting questions they should ask before entering into agreements, and telling them about sources of help should things go wrong.
Tenants won’t have the automatic right to longer tenancies however the charter emphasizes the need for landlord and tenant to talk to each other and negotiate, so the onus is on the landlord to consider the request rather than turn it down flat. It also suggests further safeguards allowing either tenant or landlord to break the agreement – for example, if a change in circumstances meant the tenant wanted to move out, or if the landlord wanted to sell the property or move into it themselves. Alan Ward, chair of the RLA, says that the charter should provide greater security for the growing number of families living in the private rented sector, while providing flexibility. “The proposed charter provides security and flexibility, and strikes the right balance between the landlord and tenant without the need for heavy-handed legislation.” There are obvious concerns over if mortgage lenders will accept these longer term tenancies and there engagement with the process is vital to making them acceptable in the PRS. Nationwide earlier this year announced that it would allow buy-to-let borrowers to enter into tenancies of up to five years; the Government is hoping other lenders will follow suit.
The Tenants’ Charter will also tackle the subject of letting agent fees charged to tenants. The charter will lay emphasis on the need for transparency about fees, and ensure that prospective tenants know full costs before they sign up to any contract.
The charter will operate alongside the forthcoming requirement for letting agents to belong to a redress scheme