Families who rent homes in the UK would like longer rental tenancies

Many people renting homes in the UK, especially families with children, would like to be offered longer tenancies to give them more security in their home, research has found.

Some 39% of people living with their children in privately rented homes have a tenancy of six months or less and 59% say it is hard planning for the future knowing they could be asked to leave their home at short notice.

The research carried out by consumer rights charity Citizens Advice also found that 34% of private renters would like their tenancy to be longer, rising to 39% amongst those with children. It says that this amounts to almost 1.5 million households in England who need more security that they’ll be able to keep living in their own home.

In recent years there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of people bringing up children in privately rented accommodation, with families making up almost four in 10 private rented households.

But the private rented sector has many pitfalls and last year nearly 75,000 people in England turned to Citizens Advice for help with a problem relating to a privately rented home including repairs and maintenance, problems with letting agencies and evictions.

The research also found that 35% of families with children thought that if they were asked to leave their property their current notice period would not give them enough time to find somewhere else to live and 46% said they would prefer not to move between properties as often as they do.

The figures also show that 79% of private renters with children have experienced problems with the quality of their home including rodent infestations, broken heating, and no hot water. Of these 52% had experienced problems with damp or mould, 28% had windows or doors which didn’t lock properly and 20% had faulty wiring.

While in many of these cases the landlord addressed the problems within month, in 27% of cases the problem took longer than this to resolve. And where these renters had spent their own time or money fixing a problem, half were not refunded for this by their landlord.

‘The challenges of living in the private rented sector can be even more acute for people with children. Families are living under a cloud of uncertainty, not knowing when they might need to leave their home,’ said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

‘This can make planning for the future, such as where your child can go to school, a real struggle. With home ownership on the decline the private rented sector is in need of a major overhaul. While there are signs of progress, such as the ban on letting agent fees, action is needed to improve security of tenure for private tenants as well as the quality of private rented homes,’ she added.

Longer tenancies should be available to all sectors of the rental market, according to Girlings Retirement Rentals whose chairman Peter Girling, pointed out that older people need security too.

‘In our latest customer survey carried out in October 2016, we found that 85% of people wanted a tenancy of 12 months or more and 71% said that the security of assured tenancies we offer that enable residents to rent their property for as long as they choose, mattered most to them when making the decision to rent,’ he explained.

‘Like Citizens Advice, we believe that should longer tenancies become more widely available for all sectors of the market from young professionals, to families and older people. This may remove the uncertainty people face and give them more reassurance and greater security of tenure to plan for the future,’ he added.