In June 2022, the UK Government published their White Paper “A fairer private rented sector” (The White Paper) outlining their intentions to bring about significant changes to the private rental sector. The Renters (Reform) Bill (Bill) was subsequently introduced to Parliament on 17 May 2023, with current Housing Secretary Michael Gove saying:
“Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them.
This government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a new deal to those living in the private rented sector; one with quality, affordability, and fairness at its heart.
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.
This will ensure that everyone can live somewhere which is decent, safe and secure – a place they’re truly proud to call home.”
The proposed reforms seek to enhance tenants’ rights, improve security of tenure, introduce measures to tackle issues such as unfair eviction practices and substandard living conditions, and make it easier for landlords to recover their property. This article provides an overview to the key provisions and implications of the Bill.
1. Abolition of section 21 notices
A central aim of the of the Renters Reform Bill is the abolition of section 21 notices, also known as “no-fault” evictions. Currently, landlords can terminate a tenancy without giving any reasons under s.21 of the Housing Act 1988. The proposed reforms aim to end this practice, offering tenants greater stability and reducing the risk of arbitrary eviction as landlords will only be able to evict on fault-based grounds and specified circumstances. This also means the end of assured shorthold tenancies and fixed terms, with the Bill introducing a single system of periodic tenancies.
2. Change to section 8 evictions
The Bill outlines amendments to s.8 of the Housing Act 1988, which deals with eviction notices based on specific grounds. This includes the introduction of new mandatory grounds enabling a tenant to be evicted if a landlord wishes to sell, redevelop or move family into their property. These grounds can only be used after the first six months of a tenancy. They also do not require any fault on the part of the tenant or require evidence from the landlord of their intention, which appears to undermine the protections afforded to tenants to some extent and is contradictory to the suggestion that the changes will abolish “no-fault” evictions, as discussed above.
There is also the inclusion of a new mandatory ground for repeat arrears. This will be applicable if the tenant has been in at least two months’ rent arrears three times within the previous three years, regardless of the amount of their total arrears as at the date of the hearing.
A full list of the grounds can be found here.
3. Rent increases
Landlords will only be permitted to increase the rent once per year and the minimum notice a landlord must provide will be increased to two months. Tenants will be able to challenge unjustified rent increases through the First-Tier Tribunal.
4. New Ombudsman scheme
All landlords will have to sign up to a Government approved redress scheme. This will allow former or current tenants to be able to make a complaint against a landlord which then can be independently investigated. The aim of the scheme seems to be to avoid parties needing to go through the Court system and should, therefore, provide a quicker and cheaper option. If a landlord breaches the requirements, they can be fined up to £5,000 by their local council. If they repeatedly breach the requirements, a landlord can be fined up to £30,000 and could face criminal prosecution.
5. Privately rented property portal
All landlords will be required to sign up to a privately rented property portal. The portal aims to help landlords understand and demonstrate their compliance with legal requirements whilst also providing updates and guidance. There is little detail on the nature of the portal, but the intention is for landlords to be legally required to register their property allowing local councils to enforce against criminal landlords.
The Bill is in the early stages, so there could, and no doubt will be, amendments before it gets Royal Assent. So far, there has also been little comment on the other reforms the Government discussed within The White Paper such as the blanket ban on refusal to rent to families with children, or those in receipt of benefits.
Guidance for the Bill can be found here.
For further information please contact Kenny Friday.