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Landlords are likely to switch their investments from buy-to-let properties to holiday lets if the government imposes minimum tenancy leases of three years, it has been suggested. The government has started a consultation process to meet the needs of today’s tenants. With more families with children and older people renting properties, the need for the stability offered by longer tenancies is being looked into. One suggestion is to impose mandatory three-year leases. However, this doesn’t appeal to professionals or younger people who like the flexibility of being able to move when they feel like it. Many landlords are also against the idea.

The CLA (Country Land and Business Association) organisation, which has a membership made up of rural land, property and business owners in England and Wales, has also rejected the idea. It argues that this would have a negative impact on the short-term rental sector and would reduce the availability of properties to rent in the countryside. CLA’s members provide nearly 40% of all private-rental properties in rural districts. It is arguing that minimum contracts do not need to be imposed because rural lettings are already providing long-term solutions for their tenants. According to a recent survey of CLA members, the average tenancy length in country or rural districts is 7.6 years. More than one in three landlords has also kept the same tenants for more than 10 years.

CLA housing adviser, Matthew O’Connell, said the current situation offers opportunities for tenants seeking long-term rental properties. However, imposing long-term tenancies would adversely affect the short-term lets needed by seasonal workers in farming or the tourism industry. It could even lead to landlords opting out of the rental sector and letting their properties as holiday accommodation instead. This would lead to a further reduction in the supply of rental properties, which would create even more problems for a housing sector which is already in crisis.

Also, there are arguments that the minimum three-year tenancies could play into the hands of rogue tenants. Landlords who have good tenants who pay on time will be happy for them to stay as long as they wish. They would not tell them they had to leave at the end of their contract at the risk of void periods. However, it is felt that rogue tenants could milk the system even more than they do now if three-year tenancies are introduced. There needs to be flexibility in the leases offered, so that landlords are not lumbered with problem tenants for longer than necessary.

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