FINDING affordable housing in the English countryside is likely to become "more difficult", a professional body of agricultural and rural valuers has warned.

The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers is warning of a potential "new threat to rural housing" after government proposals to change the law on residential tenancies.

Policy and technical advisor Kate Russell said that, for almost 40 years, houses have been let with the confidence that, once any agreed term has expired, the house can stay let and the owner can recover possession when needed with only two months’ notice.

The landlord has not had to give a reason and so not face possibly lengthy and expensive court proceedings.

"That has given the confidence for a huge expansion of the private rented sector, which has been especially important in rural areas where housing is often more expensive to buy,” said Ms Russell.

Proposals have now been published for legislation which would change the owners' rights, so they would only be able to recover possession for a limited number of reasons, such as wanting to live in the house or sell it. These may have to be proven in court.

She said: "This change has already been made in Scotland with the result that houses are instead being used for holiday lets or are sold, damaging the vitality of rural communities and making it harder for those working in the countryside to find homes."

Ms Russell warned that more houses may also be left empty rather than let for short periods.

The impact of the proposed changes is very concerning, she said. “House owners will be very concerned if they cannot be sure of recovering a house when they return from abroad, need it for family, want to sell it or where the rent has not been paid.

"Coming as it does on top of many other recent regulations, this may lead to some owners looking at alternative uses for let houses, whether as short-term holiday accommodation, sale, or even leaving it empty rather than face the additional risks.”