The new Renters Reform Bill is a crackdown on private lettings and contains little to appease landlords.
Details of the bill were released in a White Paper to be quickly followed by a draft bill expected to become law by March 2023.
After years of speculation within the lettings industry, Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove revealed how he expects the new charter for tenants to work.
Gove claims the new bill is the biggest shake-up of the private rental market for three decades and zeros in on the one in five tenants who live in unfit rented homes.
The proposed terms will scrap Section 21 no-fault evictions and usher in a new decent home standard for private tenants for the first time. The standard aims to keep rented homes free from serious health and safety hazards while ensuring landlords carry out maintenance and repairs so tenants can live in clean, healthy and stress-free homes.
Gove explained he hoped to improve standards in the rental sector by enhancing conditions for half of the estimated 500,000 low-quality homes – equivalent to one in eight of all private rented properties.
Other proposed changes include:
- Stopping landlords with a ban on letting to families with children or those receiving benefits
- A new law that opens the way for tenants to go to court to claim a rent refund if their homes are of an unacceptable standard
- Scrapping tenancy agreement clauses that ban tenants from keeping pets
- Making tenancies periodic so tenants are not liable for rent if they give up their home
- Rewriting agreements so the only way tenancies can end is if the renter gives notice or the landlord has one of several valid reasons defined in law
- Doubling the notice period for landlords hiking rents
- Increasing council powers to tackle rogue landlords and putting up fines for serious housing offences
Sops for landlords
Not all the clauses of the new bill favour tenants, says Gove.
For instance, a new property ombudsman will help settle landlord/tenant disputes quicker and cheaper than going to court.
Gove also wants to ensure landlords can regain their rented homes from anti-social tenants or when they need to sell.
The bill will also set up an online portal giving information about property law to landlords and tenants.
Gove said: “For too long many private renters have been at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who fail to repair homes and let families live in damp, unsafe and cold properties, with the threat of unfair ‘no fault’ eviction orders hanging over them.
“Our New Deal for renters will help to end this injustice by improving the rights and conditions for millions of renters as we level up across the country and deliver on the people’s priorities.”
How fair are the proposals?
Although many commentators welcome the reforms, letting agent trade body Propertymark is not so sure.
Propertymark Nathan Emerson CEO said: “After waiting three years to see exactly what this reform will look like, we’ve now got a set of proposals titled ‘The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper’. But some elements don’t appear to be so.
“How is it fair that a tenant can simply end a tenancy at a time of their choosing, but an agent or landlord has to present a valid reason that is defined in law?”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for housing charity Shelter, which has lobbied for the changes, said: “The Renters’ Reform Bill is a gamechanger for England’s 11 million private renters. Scrapping unfair evictions will level the playing field. For the first time in a long time, tenants will be able to stand up to bad behaviour instead of living in fear.
“This White Paper promises people safety and security in their home, and it makes clear that landlords need to play by the rules. Gone will be the days of families being uprooted and children forced to move school after being slapped with a Section 21 no-fault eviction for no good reason.”