Housing secretary, James Brokenshire, has announced a public consultation into the proposed new laws.
He said: “It is deeply unfair when renters are forced to uproot their lives or find new schools for their children at short notice due to the terms of their rental contract.
“Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities.”
Richard Lambert, CEO at the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “In his speech to the Conservative Party conference last October, Sajid Javid announced plans for a consultation on how to encourage longer tenancies.
“That’s been the tone of the discussion ever since – consultation and encouragement. Frankly, right now, I feel we’ve been misled.
“This is supposed to be about meeting the needs of the consumer. NLA research with tenants finds consistently that around 40% of tenants want longer tenancies, but 40% do not. More than 50% consistently say that they are happy with the tenancy length they were offered, and 20% tell us that when they asked for a longer tenancy, they got it.
“We would accept that the flexibility of the current Assured Shorthold Tenancy isn’t used as effectively as it could be, and that we should be looking to find ways to ensure that tenants are offered the kind of tenancies they need at the time they need them.
“That means thinking about how to modernise a model devised 30 years ago, to take account of the changes in the people who are renting and the way they live their lives. How will that be achieved by moving to a more rigid system, more reminiscent of the regulated model the current system replaced?
“It’s like urging someone to update their 1980s brick-style mobile phone, but instead of giving them a smartphone, offering them a Bakelite dial phone plugged into the wall.
“This is a policy which the Conservatives derided when it was put forward by their opponents in the past two general election campaigns.
“It’s hard not to see this as more of a political move aimed at the renter vote than a genuine effort to improve how the rented market works for all those involved.”
Johnny Caddick, managing director at Moda, which is creating a £2bn portfolio of build-to-rent schemes across England and Scotland, said: “For BTR firms like Moda, it makes sense that residents are given security of tenure, so we fully support these moves provided people have flexibility if they only wish to stay for a year or two.
“We need a customer-centric rental market if people are to grow confidence in the property sector.
“That has to mean encouraging more rental development through the planning system that is willing to provide better homes with no risk of eviction because the landlord wishes to sell or move back in.”
Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said: “The government’s proposal is a welcome admission that 30-year-old tenancy laws are failing renters. We cannot enjoy a stable life if we don’t know where home will be in 12 months’ time.
“Three-year tenancies are a step forward but would still mean that many tenants – including families with children in school – would have to move every few years.
“Regardless of a tenant’s long term plans, they should not fear being evicted if they meet their obligations to the landlord. The government could therefore give England’s 11 million tenants even greater security by abolishing Section 21, the law that allows landlords to evict without giving a reason.
“Whether tenancies are three-year or indefinite, landlords could still force tenants out by jacking up the rent, so any reform must include restrictions on rent increases.”