The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published its Renters Reform Bill (also known as the ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper’), which is part of a wider reform to improve lives and level up the country. The Bill, described as ‘the biggest shake up of the private rented sector in 30 years’, is set to redress the balance between landlord and tenant. But what exactly does the Bill mean for landlords and tenants? Read on to find out more.
What changes does the Bill set out?
The Renters Reform Bill sets out a variety of changes which include:
Scrapping ‘no-fault’ evictions
The Bill includes a pledge to outlaw so-called ‘no-fault’ section 21 notice evictions.
Currently, landlords can evict tenants without needing to provide a reason to do so, provided the eviction notice is not given to them within the first four months of their tenancy.
It is hoped that by scrapping section 21 evictions, tenants will be able to remain in their homes (and communities), and continue to support the local economy. As moving is expensive (a 2021 study shows that moving costs an estimated £1,709), it is also hoped that this will help save households money.
An extension of the Decent Homes Standard
It is proposed that the Decent Homes Standard, which currently only applies to social housing, is extended to cover the private residential sector. This means that:
- privately rented property will need to be free from serious health and safety hazards
- private landlords will need to keep homes in good condition to ensure renters have clean, appropriate and useable facilities
This move is to set to further improve the standards of rental accommodation, alongside the current rules (eg fitness for human habitation, minimum energy efficiency standard of EPC rating E and the need to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors).
Reforming grounds for possession
Under the Bill, the section 8 lawful grounds for possession will be changed. This will enable landlords to more effectively evict tenants and gain possession of their properties when necessary.
It is proposed that the existing notice period for criminal behaviour or serious anti-social behaviour will be lowered. The Bill is also expected to introduce new eviction grounds for persistent rent arrears and the sale of the property.
Other changes include:
- making it easier for tenants to own pets in rented homes. Tenants will gain the right to request a pet in their house. Landlords will need to consider such requests and cannot unreasonably refuse
- ending the use of arbitrary rent review clauses. Landlords will only be able to increase the rent once per year, providing double the current notice, and tenants will be able to challenge excessive rent increases through the First-tier Tribunal
- moving all tenants onto a single system of periodic tenancies. This will enable tenants to move if their circumstances change or the accommodation quality is poor.
- creating a Private Renters’ Ombudsman. Landlords and tenants can resolve disputes without the need to go to court – saving both money and time
- creating a property portal. This is designed to help landlords understand their obligations as landlords, provide tenants with information about their rights and help councils prevent poor practices.
- outlawing ‘No DSS’ bans. Landlords will no longer be able to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those receiving benefits. The Government also plans to look into supporting other vulnerable groups that struggle to find private rental accommodation (eg prison leavers).
When can these changes be expected?
The Renters’ Reform Bill is expected to be brought forward in this parliamentary session. This means that the Bill will likely be debated and voted on before Spring 2023.
What does the Bill mean for me?
The Renters Reform Bill is expected to bring about many changes for tenants and landlords alike. While the exact extent of these changes is not yet known, landlords can expect there to be wide-sweeping changes to eviction practices that will affect how they can regain possession of rented properties. Tenants, on the other hand, can expect to benefit from greater protection from evictions, below-standard homes and arbitrary rent increases.
All in all, many changes are on the horizon, drastically changing how landlords let out properties to tenants. Anyone who rents or rents out property should make sure to keep an eye on the progress of the Renters Reform Bill.
For more information, read the Government’s guidance.
Remember to Ask a lawyer if you have any questions or concerns.