Are lifetime tenancies an outdated concept?

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Lifetime tenancies were created by the Housing Act 1980 with the aim of providing security of tenure for social housing and council tenants. The government then passed the Localism Act in 2011 with the aim of giving local councils and housing association the ability to offer fixed-term tenancies.

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Despite the new law, there has been lower than expected uptake of fixed-term tenancies; in fact, a 2018 House of Commons briefing paper on social housing estimates that around 75 per cent of new tenancies were created on a lifetime basis in 2014/15. This is despite fixed-terms tenancies offering more freedom and flexibility to both tenants and housing providers.

Are lifetime tenancies outdated?

In light of frequent reports highlighting the increasing number of rough sleepers, long council housing waiting lists for vulnerable persons and inadequate living conditions in private rentals, there has been debate about whether lifetime tenancies should be scrapped altogether.

Those in favour of abolishing lifetime tenancies argue that the current system ties up valuable housing stock for long periods of time, creating shortages; what’s more, having the security of a lifetime tenancy arguably means that tenants have no incentive to move out, even if their circumstances change and they can afford to do so.

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What value do they offer?

In contrast, those who see the value of lifetime tenancies say that a fixed-term rental system would not only create greater uncertainty for tenants but also increase the management costs of the housing providers, which would be required to perform end of tenancy reviews to assess any changes to the tenants’ circumstances and the state of the property.

While there are no easy answers to these complex questions, recent advances in technology mean that councils and housing associations can save time and money by using property inventory software. Companies such as Inventory Base provide the latest property inventory software to enable landlords to manage their housing stock, tenant check-ins and check-outs, and to generate end of tenancy reviews and reports with ease.

With the continued shortage of social housing being a key issue for many local authorities, balancing the competing needs of prospective and existing tenants can be tricky. Regardless of whether councils and housing associations choose to offer lifetime or fixed-term tenancies, they need to use effective tools to manage their housing stock.


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