The government has, today, unveiled a significant set of reforms aimed at creating a fairer and safer Private Rented Sector (PRS) for both tenants and landlords. These landmark changes, introduced through the Renters’ (Reform) Bill, will have a once-in-a-generation impact on housing laws in England, benefiting approximately eleven million tenants.
One of the key commitments fulfilled by the new Bill is the abolition of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, as promised in the government’s 2019 manifesto. This change empowers renters to challenge substandard landlords without the fear of losing their homes.
Furthermore, the Renters’ (Reform) Bill provides protection for over two million landlords, making it easier for them to regain possession of their properties in necessary circumstances. Landlords will have the flexibility to sell their property, accommodate close family members, or handle situations where tenants deliberately refuse to pay rent. Notice periods will be reduced for cases involving tenant negligence, such as breaching the tenancy agreement or causing property damage.
These reforms build upon the progress made over the past decade to enhance tenant protections. Measures such as Banning Orders, introduced through the Housing and Planning Act 2016, have given local councils more authority to eliminate criminal landlords from the market. Additionally, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 has safeguarded tenants from excessive deposits and fees.
The new reforms will also strengthen the eviction powers against anti-social tenants. This broadens the range of disruptive and harmful behaviours that can lead to eviction, enabling a faster resolution for landlords dealing with such situations.
To ensure an effective tenancy system for both landlords and tenants, the new legislation will be accompanied by a reformed court process. Digitising more of the eviction process will reduce delays for the minority of cases that end up in court.
A newly established Ombudsman will provide affordable and quicker resolutions to disputes, while a digital Property Portal will assist landlords in understanding their responsibilities and enable tenants to make more informed decisions when entering into new tenancy agreements. These initiatives aim to instil confidence in responsible landlords while driving out criminal elements within the sector.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove expressed the government’s determination to address the challenges faced by renters living in substandard and insecure homes. The Renters’ (Reform) Bill aims to provide a New Deal for those in the Private Rented Sector, prioritising quality, affordability, and fairness.
The Bill will also grant tenants the legal right to request permission to keep pets in their homes, which landlords must consider and not unreasonably refuse. In turn, landlords will be able to require pet insurance to cover any potential damage to their property.
Additionally, the government plans to introduce legislation as part of the Bill to achieve the following objectives:
- Apply the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time, ensuring renters have access to safer and higher quality homes, while eliminating poor-quality properties that impact local communities. This aligns with the government’s Levelling Up mission to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030.
- Prohibit landlords and agents from implementing blanket bans on renting to tenants receiving benefits or with children, eliminating unjust discrimination against families seeking housing.
- Strengthen enforcement powers for local councils and introduce a requirement for them to report on enforcement activity, enhancing the targeting of criminal landlords.
The Renters’ (Reform) Bill represents a crucial element of the government’s efforts to promote nationwide equality and progress. It complements other housing reforms introduced through the Social Housing Regulation Bill and Building Safety Act, which address systemic issues identified following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. These reforms aim to improve the safety and quality of social housing and enhance tenants’ treatment by landlords.
Commenting on the bill, Nicola Stewart, Senior Associate and specialist in real estate litigation and leasehold reform at Rooks Rider Solicitors says:
“The Renters’ Reform Bill is a significant step towards creating a fairer and more balanced private rented sector. The abolition of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions is a welcome change that empowers tenants and provides them with greater security in their homes.
“The Bill’s provisions to protect landlords’ rights and streamline the eviction process are also important. Landlords need reasonable mechanisms to regain possession of their properties in legitimate cases, such as selling the property or dealing with non-compliant tenants.
“The introduction of a new Ombudsman and a digital Property Portal are positive measures to improve dispute resolution and provide guidance to both landlords and tenants. These initiatives can help foster better communication and understanding between the parties involved.
“The commitment to applying the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector is a crucial development that will ensure tenants have access to safe and high-quality homes. This aligns with the government’s efforts to level up housing standards and improve living conditions across the country.
“On the whole, the Renters’ Reform Bill represents a significant overhaul of housing laws and has the potential to create a more transparent and equitable private rented sector. It will be essential to monitor its implementation and assess its impact on both tenants and landlords.”