Government plans to introduce a minimum three-year term for rental housing tenancies could cause particular difficulties for farmers offering accommodation for workers, ministers have been warned.
The government is consulting over changes to legislation to give tenants in England greater long-term security and more certainty over rents.
The proposal is that landlords should have to offer a minimum three-year tenancy, but with an opportunity for the landlord and tenant to leave the agreement after the initial six-month period.
If both landlord and tenant were happy at the point of the break clause, the tenancy would continue.
However, during the rest of the fixed term, the landlord would only be able to recover their property if they had reasonable grounds to do so.
The tenant would retain the right to leave the tenancy at any point by providing a minimum of two months’ notice in writing.
Rent increases would only be allowed on an annual basis.
The Country Land and Business Association said forcing landlords to offer long-term tenancies would reduce the availability of rented homes in the countryside.
“Overly prescriptive tenancy lengths could be highly disruptive to the rural economy, threatening the short-term lettings market for seasonal workers in agriculture and tourism,” said CLA housing adviser Matthew O’Connell.
“An excessive regulatory burden could also lead to potential long-term rental homes being lost as landlords opt to let them as holiday accommodation or sell, further reducing the supply of rented homes for those struggling to get on the housing ladder.”
Mr O’Connell said while the detail of the proposal was not clear, there did look to be a threat that farmers who rented accommodation to workers through an assured shorthold tenancy could be caught out if the worker left the business, but wanted to stay in the house until the end of their tenancy.
In this scenario, the employer could be left with no accommodation to offer a replacement worker, but unable to evict the person in the property until the end of their 36-month contract.
“If we do end up in a place where the government does mandate a three-year minimum term then we would be pushing for exemptions for agricultural employees and also those involved in tourism,” he said.
The government has already acknowledged there will need to be exemptions for students because they will not want a three-year tenancy, he added.
Official statistics show the average length of tenancies in England’s private rented sector is 3.9 years.
But a survey of CLA members with residential lettings has revealed that the average tenancy length in rural areas is 7.6 years, and more than one-third have retained the same tenants for 10 years or more.