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Government promises better tenancies for families in rental homes

Property industry welcomes crackdown on hidden charges in the rental market

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

Mr Pickles said the new package of measures will mean that 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.

This will include a model tenancy agreement, clearly setting out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. 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

Gavin Smart, director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: "We’re pleased to see the government recognising that private tenants need more help to secure their rights and get the conditions they want.

"Being armed with better information will help some people to do this. But for others, it will only help them to achieve anything if they have enough leverage to get their landlord or letting agent to act – and there appears to be little in these proposals that increases that leverage.

"The impact of today’s announcement is likely to be limited for many tenants who are on low incomes and where competition for property is fierce, so we expect calls for greater regulation of the sector to continue. We want to see greater professionalism among private landlords to help give tenants a better deal."

Lucy Morton, senior partner and head of lettings at W.A.Ellis, said: " Eric Pickles tenants’ charter is a positive step.  Interestingly, though, our average tenancy has increased to beyond three years and often it is the landlord who will commit to a longer term and it is the tenant who wants the flexibility of a break clause after six months. It’s important that the model does include rent review clauses, to provide both landlord and tenant with greater financial certainty."

George Spencer, chief executive officer of online lettings company Rentify, said: "With more people both choosing and having to rent for longer, one of the problems with the letting industry has been the tendency towards short tenancies. This gives tenants very little security and can be particularly tricky if you need certainty, perhaps because you are raising children in rented accommodation, for example, and regular chopping and changing doesn't work with nursery or school places.

"But actually landlords tend to prefer long-term tenants because this is far less hassle than settling in a new tenant every six or 12 months and showing them where everything is. The other danger of frequently changing tenants is void periods where the landlord is inbetween tenancies and has to cover the mortgage themselves."

Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which? said: "We welcome this crackdown on hidden charges in the rental market. People need to know exactly what they are signing up to so that they can more easily shop around. Longer tenancies could also mark the end of unnecessary renewal fees for landlords and tenants."