According to government figures, there are around 11 million private renters in England. In May, the government introduced to the House of Commons a substantial overhaul of the law affecting landlords and tenants of residential properties.
The Renters (Reform) Bill law proposes to abolish the ‘no fault’ eviction option currently available to landlords under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. This follows a commitment made in the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto.
Section 21 has long been controversial as it is thought to deter tenants from raising legitimate concerns about rental properties, such as damp, unsafe or cold homes, for fear of being evicted by their landlord. Further reform may well require private rented properties to meet the Decent Homes Standard, which is the minimum standard currently applied to social (but not private) housing. The changes will also make it unlawful for landlords to refuse to let properties to tenants with children, pets or those receiving benefits. Landlords are also likely to be required to join an Ombudsman scheme, the aim of which is to resolve many disputes between landlords and tenants in a cheaper and quicker way than the Court system.
The proposed abolition of section 21 will not leave landlords without recourse against problem tenants. The government says that the proposed changes will strengthen the landlord’s ability to evict tenants where there is anti-social behaviour or repeated failure to pay rent. The notice periods in certain circumstances will be shortened. The changes will also provide landlords with the ability to take properties back if their circumstances change, for instance, if the landlord wishes to sell or use the property for themself or a close family member. A landlord’s right to charge a market rent for their property will be preserved, with the market rent being determined by a property tribunal.
The changes entail the creation of a Privately Rented Property Portal which will provide landlords with help to understand their legal obligations and demonstrate compliance (giving good landlords confidence in their position), alongside providing better information to tenants to make informed decisions when entering into a tenancy agreement.
The government plans to complement the The Bill with streamlined Court processes in possession claims so that these cases can be dealt with digitally.
The Bill is now passing through Parliament and the changes are unlikely to take effect before 2024.
For assistance with any landlord and tenant issue, please contact Cathy Allen or Daniela Bushe.
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