transcript of Eric Pickles' Conference speech on Tuesday published
on the Conservative Party website there are two mentions of
housing. One is a claim that housebuilding is now at its "highest
rate since Labour's crash, thanks to schemes like Help to
The other is a call to increase protection against excessive
charges to RTB leaseholders. Oddly there is no mention of the Charter for private
tenants published over Pickles' name the same day by DCLG. Yet
this is a more substantial and better-argued contribution to
housing policy than either of the points from his speech.
At the heart of the proposals is a new model tenancy agreement, to
be developed in conjunction with the sector, which will "clearly
set out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords",
including a right for tenants to request longer tenancies.
The Tenants Charter will inform tenants what they can expect from
their tenancy and, if something goes wrong, where to go for help.
This will work alongside a new requirement for all lettings agents
to belong to a redress scheme, which will be able to investigate
when agents have not been clear about fees and, where a complaint
is upheld, require compensation to be paid.
The idea is to improve conditions for private tenants without
significant changes to current legislation or new burdens on
landlords - although there has already been comment in the media
about the implications of longer tenancies for buy-to-let
But there is no intention to impose the new model tenancy
agreement on landlords or tenants, so it remains to be seen whether
it will be taken up. In areas where there is high demand for
private tenancies, new tenants have little leverage and so are
unlikely to be able to insist that the model tenancy is used or to
get a longer tenancy if they want one.
The question is - how many landlords care enough about their
public reputation to wish to be seen to be working with the new
proposals? We shall see. It is welcome that the Government has
acknowledged the need for action on private tenants rights, but it
remains to be seen whether the improvements that are needed can be
secured without providing tenants with formal legal rights they do
not currently enjoy.