Tuesday, 03 March 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.’

Readers' comments (23)

  • Chris

    Great - now keep heading in that direction and restore security of tenure.

    The exception required already exists, they are called introductory tenancies.

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  • Alpha One

    I love the way the government proposed something, then listens to criticisms about it, responds to those criticisms in exactly the way people asked them to, and are then accused of making u-turns. When they don't respond and carry on regardless then they are being 'bullish' and not listening to what people want!

    Security of tenure should be the exception, not the rule.

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  • Chris

    I agree with you Alpha, I'd call it active government when views are listened to and taken on board (but there is always scope for political fun).

    However, in this instance such is not the case. This is not a U-turn but, I'd allege, a deliberate premeditated act designed to gain agreement by default to end secure tenancies and avoid the accusation of doing the reverse to what was promised at election. How can there be any objection when the government has listened to the majority view and implemented it they will cry, knowing full well that that is not what they are doing.

    The outcry against the ending of secure tenancies was diverted into defeating the two-year tenancy by replacement. The 'u-turn' to 5-year tenancies still acheives the improper aim of scrapping securty of tenure.

    The premise is proven false when you take into account that intermediate and introductory tenancies already meet the stated need that the 2-year now 5-year tenancy (but still 2-year really!)

    A great play of political smoke and mirrors of the kind that suckers the niaive - which appears to include the entire opposition benches currently, as well as the more forgivable bystanders.

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  • Alpha One

    Sounds very conspiratorial to me, couldn't just be that Shapps got it wrong in the first place!

    As I suggested, I think security of tenure is something for the past. I quite like the whole reactive tenancy agreement, that increases rents as people are more able to pay them.

    I'd like to see some provision that people will not be evicted at the end, but that, by default, they'll charge them a market rent. I know that sounds a little bit like security of tenure, and I suppose it does to an extent, but the point for me is that people pay what they are able to pay, not a fixed sum based on a need they had in the past.

    That way Bob Crow would, at the very least, be paying a market rent on his property, not a social rent which is, quite simply, unjustifiable.

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  • Chris

    Alpha - is the market rate for gas correct, or should the extent of profit be reduced to more realistic levels?

    Now think the same way about rents - market rents should not be the benchmark, unless they are linked to affordability. Rather than forcing Mr Crow to pay more how about enabling others to pay less as the method of levelling. Is it wrong to contorl the market in the national interest? Churchill concluded not, so why is it wrong now?

    You do not wish to see people evicted and mass migrations of the low paid to boot - then stop looking for ways to increase people's housing costs would be my advice.

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  • Jon Southall

    Yet again, the tail tries to wag the dog.

    Maybe profits should be reduced Chris. Maybe businesses should be run at a loss, until they collapse in bankruptcy, in the interests of the social good. That would be a fitting reward for those who invested, those who were employed, those who were enjoying the benefits of the products and services made possible. At least, it would be under your contemptible system, intent on the ruin of those who can, in the name of those who can't.

    Like all collectivists, you seek control. The more you have, the more tyrannical you become. The result - a system which is rich in misery and suffering, dressed in the language of 'the social good'. You will stand there issuing more and more directives. Interfering ever more in the lives of individuals. See where this will get you Chris.

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  • I think it is outrageous to suggest that security of tenure is outmoded. It is the one thing that enables (vulnerable) people to build new lives - having a secure, social rented flat.

    80% market rent and non-secure tenancies are the end of social housing. Denying for many the chance of having a home they can love, feel safe in and afford.

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  • Jon Southall

    There is nothing outrageous about the suggestion Paul. I agree with Alpha One on this.

    What good is social housing going to be when the economy is wrecked?

    An ancient Chinese emperor who, being told that his subjects didn't have enough rice to eat, replied, 'Why don't they eat meat?'

    If people can't afford rice, they surely cannot afford meat. If we cannot afford the system we have, it is insane to suggest the solution is a more expensive system.

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  • Germany offers security oftenurei nthe privatesector. Do people think they are wrong? Like they are wrong to have Mercedes Benz, Seimens, local procurement, VW, BASF etc etc? While we have three blokes left with a lathe in Wolverhampton (hidden in case their bank manager or the local Tory finds out and closesthem down too), a government with a buy British Last policy and £14bn worth of money being syphoned out of the economy in bonuses alone to support bankrupt banks and financiers?

    Secure tenancies protect people from the vagaries of a rapacious capitalist sytem that now makes no pretence about paying the majoirity a living wage or offering them anything other than insecurity and declining living standards. The Con-LibDem-New Labour Colaiiton have indeed played a blinder on this. We are all so jolly relieved at five year tenanciesthat we fail to realise we have lost one ofthe great achievements of post war Britain - a housing choice that gives people social and economic security to build a home and a life.

    Heaven help us that more and more people it seems want to force ptheir fellow Brits into a life time of insecurity and poverty. Careful what you wish for because you will be next...

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  • BlokeWithAConscience

    Security of Tenure is certainly the jewel in the crown for the poorer members of our broken economy. It is only natural therefore that those that have will seek to remove it as part of their drive of getting people to work for next to nothing to increase profitability for the investors.
    We will have to fight to protect Security of Tenure at local level if government is only concerned with removing our rights. Security of Tenure (for those that do not understand it) is the difference between a house and a home and must be defended to protect our communities.

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