UK Government set to introduce the Renters Reform Bill to Parliament next week
4 Minute Read
Housing Secretary Michael Gove has announced that the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill, first promised in 2019, will finally be introduced to Parliament next week. Although precise details of the Bill have not been released, it is expected to have a new name, reflecting the objectives of the government’s own White Paper on rental reform, which was released 11 months ago.
The White Paper contained a 12-point plan of action aimed at improving the private rental sector. The government’s mission is to create a Private Rented Sector that meets the needs of the diverse tenants and landlords who live and work within it.
Here is a summary of the key points outlined in the plan:
1. The government aims to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030 and require privately rented homes to meet the Decent Homes Standard for the first time. This will give renters safer, better value homes and remove the blight of poor-quality homes in local communities.
2. Quality improvements will be accelerated in the areas that need it most. Pilot schemes will be run with a selection of local councils to explore different ways of enforcing standards and work with landlords to speed up adoption of the Decent Homes Standard.
3. The government will abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and deliver a simpler, more secure tenancy structure. A tenancy will only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession, empowering tenants to challenge poor practice and reducing costs associated with unexpected moves.
4. Grounds for possession will be reformed to make sure that landlords have effective means to gain possession of their properties when necessary. Landlords’ ability to evict those who disrupt neighbourhoods through antisocial behaviour will be expedited, and new grounds for persistent arrears and sale of the property will be introduced.
5. Rent increases will only be allowed once per year, the use of rent review clauses will end, and tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases through the First Tier Tribunal will be improved to support people to manage their costs and to remain in their homes.
6. Tenants’ ability to hold their landlord to account will be strengthened, and a new single Ombudsman that all private landlords must join will be introduced. This will provide fair, impartial, and binding resolution to many issues and be quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial than the court system. The government will also consider how to bolster and expand existing rent repayment orders and enable tenants to be repaid rent for non-decent homes.
7. The government will work with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to target the areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings. Mediation and alternative dispute resolution will be strengthened to enable landlords and tenants to work together to reduce the risk of issues escalating.
8. A new Property Portal will be introduced to make sure that tenants, landlords and local councils have the information they need. The portal will provide a single ‘front door’ for landlords to understand their responsibilities, tenants will be able to access information about their landlord’s compliance, and local councils will have access to better data to crack down on criminal landlords. The government also intends to incorporate some of the functionality of the Database of Rogue Landlords, mandating the entry of all eligible landlord offences and making them publicly visible.
9. Local councils’ enforcement powers and ability to crack down on criminal landlords will be strengthened by seeking to increase investigative powers and strengthening the fine regime for serious offenses. The government is also exploring a requirement for local councils to report on their housing enforcement activity and wants to recognize those local councils that are doing a good job.
10. The government pledges to make it illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits. This is a significant step towards creating a more inclusive rental sector and reducing discrimination against vulnerable groups. The government also plans to improve support to landlords who let to people on benefits, which will reduce barriers for those on the lowest incomes.
11. The government plans to give tenants the right to request a pet in their property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. This move will be welcomed by pet owners who often struggle to find rental accommodation that allows their furry friends.
12. An innovative approach to passport deposits. The government will work with industry experts to monitor the development of market-led solutions to passport deposits. This move will help tenants who struggle to raise a second deposit to move around the PRS more easily and support tenants to save for ownership.
In conclusion, it is refreshing to see the government taking proactive steps to address the private rental sector’s issues. The proposed Renters Reform Bill is a step in the right direction and has the potential to create a fairer and more inclusive rental market. However, it is essential to note that it will require collaboration from all stakeholders, including tenants, landlords, and policymakers, to create a lasting impact.