Renters Reform Bill law legislation

Renters Reform Bill: a ‘new deal’, but what’s in it for landlords?

The private rented sector has once again been promised a Renters Reform Bill that will improve standards, but how do buy-to-let landlords fare in the proposals?

Described as the “biggest change to renters law in a generation”, the Renters Reform Bill has been put forward for a third time with pledges to change legislation around renting in the UK. The reforms will apply to both the private rented sector and social housing.

The proposals were outlined in the Queen’s Speech last week, with the intention to shake up the sector first being mentioned in the Queen’s Speech back in 2019. A White Paper has now been promised which will set out more detail on the proposals for the Renters Reform Bill.

What’s in the Renters Reform Bill?

The aim of the “new deal” for renters is to “build on the progress the government has already made in this area, and ensure all renters have access to secure, quality homes, levelling up opportunities for the 21% of private rented who currently live in homes of an unacceptable standard”.

The Renters Reform Bill comes in four main sections. Much of its intention is towards protecting and helping the country’s 4.4 million renting households. However, landlords have not been forgotten, as some of the proposals are geared towards them.

Propertymark sets out the four areas of reform as follows:

  1. The application of the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time ever. A consultation on this is due in the Summer of 2022.
  2. All landlords will be required to register with a new private rented property portal bringing together information about properties in one place. This has advanced the conversation from a landlord register and is likely to put more emphasis on registering property and what landlords need to do.
  3. The abolishment of Section 21 evictions to deliver a radically fairer deal for renters enabling them to challenge poor practice. The introduction of new and stronger grounds for repeated incidences of rent arrears and reducing notice periods for anti-social behaviour means we are unlikely to see court reform. However, officials will need to work through what this means for the existing tenancy set up as essentially through the proposals the Assured Shorthold regime comes to an end.
  4. The introduction of a new PRS Ombudsman covering all private rented sector landlords who rent out property in England, giving private rented sector tenants full access to redress. This puts into focus a distinction between let only services and agents fully managing a property as well as, depending on how it is set up, agents will have recourse if they have complaints about a bad landlord.

Levelling up

The buzz word for 2022 has been the government’s levelling up agenda, described as “a moral, social and economic programme for the whole of government”. The aim of the Levelling Up White Paper is to spread opportunity more equally across the UK.

With so many households living in rented accommodation across the country, this agenda is highly relevant to the Renters Reform Bill.

Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe and cold homes, powerless to put it right, and under the threat of sudden eviction.

“The New Deal for renters announced today will help to end this injustice, improving conditions and rights for millions of renters.

“This is all part of our plan to level up communities and improve the life chances of people from all corners of the country.”

In recent years, many landlords and landlord representatives have spoken out against the government’s significant focus on assisting renters, sometimes to the detriment of landlords. Tax increases, the reduction of mortgage interest tax relief and additional regulations have hit some in the sector.

Marcus Selmon, chair of Portfolio Landlords Action Network, said recently: “We have a very unusual market made up of millions of small landlords owning less than three properties who often do not have the capital resources to deal with onerous regulations,” says Selmon.

“Many of them want to comply with the current rules and most provide homes that range from very good to OK. But if they are faced with new regulations that they cannot afford to meet then they will leave the market.”

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