The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill was finally published by Housing Secretary Michael Gove on Wednesday, and it’s sparked some debate within the industry.
A whole raft of new measures is set to be introduced to the UK’s private rented sector once the Renters Reform Bill becomes law, which is expected to happen either later this year or early in 2024.
The extensive 89-page document sets out the government’s proposals for the industry, but the standout changes that are to be introduced – which have been much written about in recent months – are the abolishment of Section 21 eviction powers, the introduction of a new ombudsman, and changing the rules on tenants with pets.
While many of the proposals in the Renters Reform Bill appear to be aimed at helping tenants, Gove pointed out that the new rules should also be beneficial to responsible landlords, too.
“Our new laws introduced to Parliament today will support the vast majority of responsible landlords who provide quality homes to their tenants, while delivering our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions,” he said.
Changing eviction laws
Abolishing the Section 21 “no-fault” eviction option for landlords is certainly the most controversial part of the Renters Reform Bill. At the moment, this is the fastest and easiest way for a landlord to regain possession of their property if they need to, without having to provide a reason.
The government plans to increase the powers and scope of Section 8 evictions, which landlords have criticised in the past as being a lengthy and difficult process, sometimes leaving them stuck with tenants in serious arrears for many months. With the Renters Reform Bill, this process is expected to be improved.
Commenting on this amendment, Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “Responsible landlords need to be confident that when Section 21 ends, where they have a legitimate reason, they will be able to repossess their properties as quickly as possible.
“Without this assurance, the Bill will only exacerbate the rental housing supply crisis many tenants now face.
“Whilst we welcome the Government’s pledge to ensure landlords can effectively recover properties from anti-social tenants and those failing to pay rent, more detail is needed if the Bill is going to work as intended.
“We will continue to work with the Government, MPs and Peers to ensure the Bill is workable and fair to both responsible landlords and tenants.”
Other aspects of the Renters Reform Bill
To improve transparency and communication within the private rented sector, the Renters Reform Bill sets out plans to introduce an ombudsman that will help settle disputes between landlords and tenants.
At the moment, a number of housing ombudsmen services do exist, but the proposal is that there will be one to deal specifically with matters between landlords and tenants. This is aimed at improving overall standards in the industry where landlords fall below the expected level, as well as eliminating criminal landlords.
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com said: “We have long needed a statutory single private rental Ombudsman – so I’m pleased to see it in the legislative plans. After all, disputes are often between two individuals – landlord and tenant – rather than between companies, so it can be very personal and difficult to sort.
“Crucially, it won’t be voluntary, all private landlords will be required to join the Ombudsman, and it will have legal authority to compel apologies, take remedial action and pay compensation.”
The Renters Reform Bill also looks at preventing landlords from banning pets from properties – it introduces the right for all tenants to be able to request a pet in their home.
Michael Webb, head of Policy & Public Affairs, Battersea Cats & Dogs Home, said: “Tenants being unable to find anywhere to rent with their pet is sadly one of the most common reasons people bring their animals to Battersea.
“Not only will this Bill bring us one step closer to significantly reducing the number of dogs and cats we see being needlessly separated from their owners, it will also open up the many joys of pet ownership to millions of renters in the future.”
There will also be tighter rules around landlords imposing blanket bans on people on benefits, and people with children, to combat discrimination in the industry.