Renters Reform Bill

  • Posted

The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill has moved a step closer with the Government promising that it will provide the biggest change to renters law in a generation, improving conditions and rights for those in both the private and socially rented sector.

The White Paper, produced on 16 June, confirms that evictions relying on Section 21 notices will be outlawed. Not only will “no fault” evictions be abolished, the White Paper also seems to indicate that all tenants will move onto periodic tenancies, meaning that fixed term tenancies will end. This means that new tenancies will be periodic from the start, leaving tenants reasonably free to give notice and leave when they wish. However, landlords will not have the same flexibility and will only be able to evict tenants with reason. We have not yet seen the detail of the legislation, but it is likely that it will allow for property sale and landlords wishing to move back in to the property.

There will be new powers to recover possession from anti-social tenants and it is likely that the grounds for rent arrears will be reviewed. Bailiff resources are to be improved and initial hearings in ASB cases should be listed sooner – so long as there is the Court time.

The Decent Homes Standard will be extended to the private rented sector for the first time, placing a legal obligation on landlords to ensure that their properties are in reasonable repair, meet current legal housing standards and have reasonably modern facilities and services.

There is to be a blanket ban on refusing to rent to tenants with children or those who are on benefits. Similarly, a landlord cannot refuse to allow a tenant to keep pets. The Tenants Fees Act was a barrier to tenants having pets, as a landlord could not ask a tenant to pay a higher deposit to protect against damage caused by a pet. The White Paper removes this barrier by allowing landlords to require pet-owners to buy pet insurance.

The notice period for rent reviews will double, the rent review will have to be carried out using the S13 procedure and rent can only be increased on an annual basis, which is, of course, what S13 currently states.

The introduction of a new property portal will help landlords understand and comply with their responsibilities, as well as provide Local Authorities and tenants with the information they need to tackle rogue landlords. A private renters ombudsman will also be introduced but how this will work is yet to be seen.

There appears to be a commitment to develop a deposit passport to avoid tenants having to pay a deposit when they move home before the first deposit has been returned. In practical terms, this is going to be very difficult to achieve and there is no further news on how the Government envision that working.

The next few months are going to be interesting as we see the development of the White Paper.