Renters (Reform) Bill

This Bill was debated at a second reading on Monday 23 October 2023 and has now been reintroduced in Session 2023-24.  It has now been sent to a Public Bill Committee which will scrutinise the Bill line by line and is expected to report to the House by Tuesday 5th December 2023.

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What the Bill Proposes:

Removal of Section 21 notices:

Section 21 notices allow landlords to ask a tenant to vacate without having to provide any reason. This method of service notice is proposed to be repealed in the Renters Reform white paper. According to government statistics, 8% of private tenants who left their homes in 2019 and 2020 did so against their will and more than 20% were evicted by their landlords with no reason provided.

Eviction and regaining possession of your property

The Bill aims to introduce:

  • A new mandatory ground for serious rent arrears or persistent arrears. When a tenant has been late paying their rent at least 3 times in the past 3 years, and each time by at least 2 months, the Court must make an order to evict the tenant. This will apply no matter how much is owed in arrears at the time of the hearing.
  • A ground for a landlord wishing to sell or move into their rental property (for themselves or close family).
  • Specific grounds for supported or short-term housing. Although these grounds will not be available during the first six months of the tenancy agreement, they will be required for landlords who want to sell their rental home or move back in.

It also appears that new procedures are in the works to ensure that tenants in arrears have a reasonable chance of repaying their debts without losing their home, as well as new mandatory grounds for recurring significant arrears.

Fixed term tenancies scrapped

To make it easier to adjust to the new legislation, the government wants to abolish assured tenancies and assured shorthold leases for all tenants and replace them with a single system of periodic tenancies. To avoid having vacant premises, a tenant who wishes to leave must give the landlord two months' notice. A landlord may evict a tenant only under "reasonable conditions," which have yet to be established. This change in legislation will apply to properties rented to students, but purpose-built student housing will be exempt. There may also be a requirement that all tenancies are in writing.

Reformed Court process

“Wide ranging reforms” are promised in order to target delays in possession proceedings, however, there are no plans for a new housing court introduced. To reduce needless evictions, there is a push to improve landlord-tenant mediation services.

Pets to be allowed in rental properties

Every tenant has the legal right to request permission to keep a pet in the rental property. The landlord must take these requests into account and cannot arbitrarily deny them. They can nevertheless insist that tenants take out pet insurance to cover any damage caused by the pet/s. The process for appealing a landlord's denial remains unclear.

The Decent Homes Standard

The government estimates that 1.6 million people in the UK currently reside in housing that poses a threat to their health and safety due to its inadequate conditions. The new legislation will apply the "Decent Homes Standard," (currently only applying to social housing) to the private rented sector (PRS). Landlords will be held liable for ensuring that their rental properties are safe and secure from potential hazards including fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. A home's infrastructure, including its heating and cooling system, its kitchen, its bathrooms, and its noise insulation, must be "clean, acceptable, and functional."

Certain types of tenants cannot be prohibited

Any ban on tenants with children, those receiving Universal Credit, or any minority group will be prohibited under the new legislation.

Rent increases and rent payments in advance

There will be no more rent review provisions, and landlords will only be able to raise their rent once a year. 2 months notice must be provided for all rent increases If the rent goes up, two months' notice. If a tenant pays rent in advance, the landlord must now refund any overpaid rent when the tenancy is over. There may also be a limit on how much rent landlords can ask for in advance.

Extended Ombudsman Scheme for Property Professionals

The introduction of a single, government-appointed ombudsman with power over all private landlords in England will make it possible to resolve issues more quickly, easily, and affordably outside of court processes. The Ombudsman will have extensive powers, including the potential to require landlords to apologise, offer detailed information to their tenants, remedy unsolved issues at the property, and/or pay up to £25,000 in damages to their tenants. All landlords will be obliged to join an ombudsman organisation.

New Enforcement Measures

  • Civil Penalty Notices issued to local authorities who improperly evict or harass tenants.
  • Court-issued Rent Repayment Orders for violations of the Decent Homes Standards.
  • Restrictions on marketing or reletting a property for a period of 3 months after using "moving" or "selling" grounds as an eviction reason.
  • Inclusion in the "Rogue Landlord Database" is compulsory.

Other potential changes

The introduction of a new property website to assist landlords in understanding and demonstrating compliance with their legal requirements.
Landlords will be encouraged to accommodate reasonable requests to hang artwork on walls or to modify appliances in a rental property.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the proposed changes we would be happy to chat these through with you, contact us.