Lifetime tenancies are to be scrapped

9 December 2015 | By Pete Apps

Lifetime tenancies in council housing will be “phased out” under a new amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill tabled by the government yesterday.

Amendments to the bill mean new secure tenancies granted after the bill comes into force will be for a period of between two and five years.

Secure tenancies are granted by councils, and had previously offered tenants a lifelong home which could be inherited by their next of kin.

The changes mean the tenancy will be reviewed at the end of each term, with the potential for the tenant to be evicted.

They will not apply to existing tenants. If passed on to a family member, the tenancy will be converted to a fixed term.

Housing associations offer assured tenancies, which can be either fixed-term or lifelong, and are unaffected by the amendment as it is currently drafted.

However, the government does have the power to introduce regulation via the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to limit the length of housing association tenancies as well. The Department for Communities and Local Government has not yet commented on whether it will take this step.

Inside Housing revealed in October that civil servants had informed housing associations the changes would apply to them as well. However, the government has since committed to reducing housing association regulation as a result of the Office for National Statistics reclassification of the sector as public.

John Bryant, regulation policy leader for the National Housing Federation (NHF), said: “Our view is that housing associations are in the best place to decide what type and duration of tenancy to offer. We don’t want to have that decision taken away – whether by legislation or regulation.”

Martyn Kingsford, honorary policy advisor at the Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisations of England (TAROE), said: “This government policy will change the nature of communities, increase the work load of hard-pressed housing officers and create tension between landlords and tenants.”

In an explanatory note, housing minister Brandon Lewis said: “A secure tenant can currently live in a property for life. This amendment phases out lifetime tenancies.”

Councils have had the power to grant fixed-term tenancies voluntarily since 2012.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow cabinet member for housing, said: “Margaret Thatcher passed the law to give council tenants secure tenancies which David Cameron is now tearing up.”

UPDATE: At 2.30pm on 9.12.2015

This story has been updated to make it clear this applies to secure tenancies only, and has also been updated to include reaction from the sector.