Charities like Shelter have been campaigning for longer tenancies in the private rented sector for some years.
This doesn’t mean trapping tenants into a long-term contract they can’t get out of. It means giving tenants the option of renting the same property in the longer-term should they want to, ensuring they know what their rent will be, while having the flexibility to move on if they give due notice to the landlord.
The rental market is always evolving. In London, more tenants are renting for longer because of the difficulty in getting a mortgage or saving for a deposit. Property prices and rental prices, especially in parts of central London, have increased substantially over the last ten years, preventing many renters – both young and older – from being able to afford to buy.
Tenants are renting for longer on average, with the majority renting while they save for a deposit on their own property. However, lifestyles are also changing, and there is a fair portion of renters who are actively choosing to rent instead of buy simply because they relish the freedom, independence, and flexibility given when you live in, but do not own, a property.
Security and flexibility is what tenants want, not necessarily longer tenancies, unless longer tenancies are met with greater protection for tenants and security of tenure. Tenants want to know their tenancy is secure and stable for however long they want to rent the property, but naturally there needs to be security and continuity for the landlord too.
Renting is still, by most tenants, viewed as the thing to do only until home ownership becomes feasible. ‘Generation rent’ is alive and kicking, and yet most UK renters have had it drilled into them that home ownership is the way forward, a way of guaranteeing yourself some form of security and stability in an increasingly unstable world.
Recent research confirms that the clear majority of renters are only renting until they can climb onto the property ladder, yet there does seem to be a growing number of tenants who would continue to rent if rental conditions were good. In London, rents have dipped slightly on average, and tenants can afford to be more choosy. However, the rental market and asking rents have proved more robust in prime central London, where stock levels have only increased by 5% (What Mortgage).
Lifestyles are changing in that many tenants, especially young tenants, tend to move jobs more regularly when compared with the previous generation. Renting allows tenants the ability to move to a new location for work more easily than if they owned their home. This is one fundamental lifestyle change. And tenants are renting for longer, especially if they lack financial support from other people, such as parents.
In the meantime, buy-to-let landlords play a vital role in supplying good quality accommodation to tenants. Landlords should have the support they need to ensure security for themselves and for their tenants.