Sunday, 02 August 2015

Government backtracks on five-year tenancies

The government has revised instructions to the social housing regulator to explicitly state that flexible tenancies should normally last a minimum of five years.

Under an updated draft direction on tenure social landlords will be required to set out any circumstances in which they will offer tenancies of less than five years in their tenancy policies.

The previous version of the draft direction stated that two-year tenancies, which are the shortest that will be permitted under the Localism Bill, should only be used in exceptional circumstances. It did not state what these circumstances would be, or that five-years would otherwise be the minimum.

Before the directions to the regulator were published housing minister Grant Shapps had told MPs that five years would be the norm. The omission of this statement from the draft directions when they were first published in July prompted Labour MP Nick Raynsford to accuse him of ‘a disgraceful breach of his own promise’ and call for him to explain his actions to parliament.

In a letter accompanying the updated draft direction on tenancy, Mr Shapps says it has been amended to include the five-year reference ‘particularly in light of concerns expressed during debate on the tenure reform proposals in the Localism Bill at Lords committee’.

He adds: ‘If social landlords decide that there are exceptional circumstances where tenancies of less than five years may be appropriate, then they will be required to set out in their tenancy policy what those circumstances will be.’

A DCLG spokesperson said: ‘This is not a backtrack. Landlords have made it clear to ministers from the start of the year that tenancies shorter than two years would only be used in exceptional circumstances.

‘We have always said that in the vast majority of cases in which a social landlord offers a flexible tenancy, we would expect the tenancy would be for at least five years.

‘Government plans to introduce greater flexibility on social housing tenancies remain in place, with landlords able to set contracts from a minimum two-year tenancy up to lifetime tenure, and we are now making sure that the standards landlords need to meet fully reflect that position.’

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