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The Renters Reform Bill 2022: Everything You Need to Know

The biggest change in the rental sector for over a decade....

Published 29/07/2022

Author Articles @ EVO

The Renters Reform Bill 2022: Everything You Need to Know

 

In the UK, there are an estimated 4.4 million households in the private rented sector (PRS), housing over 11 million people. Many people living in these homes are subject to the whims of landlords who can evict them at any time.
The proposed reforms outlined in the Renters Reform Bill aim to protect the rights of tenants and landlords. 

In the words of ex-Housing Secretary Michael Gove, “The reality today is that far too many renters are living in damp, dangerous, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them. 

“Tenants are often frightened to raise a complaint. If they do, there is no guarantee that they won’t be penalised for it, that their rent won’t shoot up as a result, or that they won’t be hit with a Section 21 notice asking them to leave.”

 

  • Highlights: 
  • What Is the Renters Reform Bill?
  • What Is a Section 21 ‘No Fault’ Eviction?
  • Periodic Tenancies
  • Is Section 21 Being Abolished?
  • Strengthening the Section 8 Notice
  • What Are the New Landlord Rules?
  • What Are The Changes To Renters’ Rights?

What Is the Renters Reform Bill?

The Renters Reform Bill 2022 sets out to ensure that:

  • All tenants have access to a safe, secure, quality home.
  • Tenants have the right to challenge unfair landlord practices without fear of being evicted.
  • Landlords cannot simply evict tenants unless they are within laws and procedures governing the repossession of their properties.
  • Landlords and tenants are supported by a system that effectively resolves issues.
  • Local authorities and councils have practical tools to crack down on and put an end to poor practice.

Referred to as the “biggest change to renters law in a generation,” the Renters Reform Bill, initially proposed in 2019, includes changes that will positively impact tenants and landlords in the private rented sector.

These changes include

  • Repealing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, protecting tenants from eviction, and allowing landlords to take back their property when necessary.
  • Doubling the notice period for rental increases, enabling the tenant to challenge it or to move to another location.
  • Prohibiting ‘blanket bans’ by private landlords on renting to families or those who receive benefits.
  • Easing up on the regulations regarding the tenant’s right to keep a pet, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. 
  • Extending the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector so that all those who rent have a legal right to a secure, warm, and quality home.
  • Establishing a Private Renters Ombudsman to mediate disputes between private landlords and renters, reducing the need to go to court. 

What Is a Section 21 ‘No Fault’ Eviction?

Under current UK law, landlords can give a Section 21 notice to evict tenants without providing a reason, even if they have not broken any aspect of the tenancy agreement (hence the term “no-fault” eviction). 

‘No fault’ evictions result in homelessness. Before the pandemic, the loss of a tenancy was the leading cause of homelessness, and the government banned unfair evictions during the pandemic to prevent people from losing their homes.

There are circumstances in which it is legitimate to evict a tenant, such as anti-social behaviour or the need to reclaim a property because of wilful damage or neglect by the tenant. 

In the past, landlords have issued eviction notices after having a falling out with the tenant. It is unfair practices like this that the Renters Reform Bill seeks to address. The bill also protects landlords' rights to move into or sell their property.

While a lease agreement should protect you until the end of the stated fixed term date, thousands of renters do not feel secure.

Under the terms of the Renters Reform Bill, Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions are to be banned. This will mean that private landlords cannot evict tenants without a legitimate reason.

Periodic Tenancies

All tenants will be able to benefit from a system of periodic tenancies, putting an end to fixed-term tenancies. 

This means that if their housing is deemed poor quality, they can leave and request a repayment of their rent. The change also grants them the freedom and right to move more easily when their circumstances change.

A tenancy will only end if a tenant chooses to leave or a landlord has a valid reason, as defined in law.

Is Section 21 Being Abolished?

While section 21 is being abolished, section 8 will be strengthened. 

Tenants and the organisations who represent them argue that the right of the landlords to evict a tenant at short notice has a detrimental effect on the tenant’s wellbeing.
There is evidence of reluctance on the part of tenants to complain about rental increases or to request repairs to the property because of fear of being evicted. 

In a 2018 consultation on overcoming barriers to longer tenancies in the private rental sector, many respondents said they felt unable to plan their lives due to their insecurities around housing and that this impacted their mental health and their children’s education.

Consultations arising out of this in July and October 2019 proposed the abolition of Section 21 of the Housing Act of 1988.

The Conservative Manifesto 2019 guarantees a fairer deal for tenants and an end to ‘no-fault’ evictions. It is proposed that Section 21 is replaced by a more straightforward and more secure tenancy proposal and that the tenancy will only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has valid grounds for terminating it. 

Strengthening the Section 8 Notice

In the Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper, the government reveals its plans to amend Section 8 when it abolishes Section 21. These changes will make it easier for landlords to regain possession of their properties from anti-social tenants and to sell their property when they wish to.

A Section 8 notice is served when a landlord wants to regain possession of their property, but this can only occur if the tenant has breached specific stipulations. This differs from a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice.

In reforming Section 8, the UK government aims to strike a balance to protect the tenants’ security and the landlords’ right to manage their property.

Under the current law, a Section 8 notice can be served if the landlord wants to move into the property to live in as their own home, but it excludes the landlord’s children or other family members.

A new regulation will be introduced allowing landlords or their close family members to move into a rental property. However, moving into or selling this property will not be permitted in the first six months of a tenancy.

Previously, if a landlord had taken a tenant to court for rent arrears, the tenant could avoid eviction by the court if they reduced their arrears to just below a certain threshold. However, the new grounds state that the tenant will be evicted if they are in at least two months' rent arrears three times within the previous three years, regardless of the arrears balance at the hearing.

What Are the New Landlord Rules?

The proposals outlined in the Renters Reform Bill aim to clamp down on landlords who provide unfit homes and to provide housing that conforms to Decent Home Standards.

What Is Decent Housing?

  • Non-decent homes are unsafe and uninhabitable.
  • A decent home is free from harmful health and safety risks such as fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Landlords must attend to problems before they get worse, for example, leaking taps or toilets. This benefits landlords as their tenants are more likely to notify them of issues before they worsen if they know that they can rely on the issue being resolved. 
  • Tenants should have clean facilities in good working order; The landlords must fix or replace these facilities when they break down or reach the end of their lives.
  • Rented homes should be warm and dry, not damp and mouldy or freezing cold in winter.

The new rules aim to ensure that responsible landlords can efficiently gain possession of their properties from anti-social tenants and sell their properties when needed.

A Private Renters Ombudsman will be established to settle disputes between tenants and landlords speedily and at a low cost, without the need to go to court.

A new property portal website will also be introduced to provide relevant information to tenants and landlords. It will also give councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue landlords.

What Will the New Property Portal Look Like?

The property portal will be available online and will include comprehensive information and guidance on renting in the private rental sector. 

It will provide tenants with information about the property they wish to rent from a compliance perspective. There will be monitoring of the portal to ensure it receives engagement with representative groups to ensure that the portal works for everyone.

To help councils take measures against unscrupulous landlords, it is being considered for the portal to incorporate the existing database of rogue landlords and property agents.

Since there are many rules and regulations for landlords to follow, the portal will act as a resource hub for regulatory and compliance information.

The government will look for ways to ensure that messages reach the appropriate group and work alongside those who already provide information to landlords and tenants, such as the National Residential Landlords Association.

 

What Are The Changes to Renters' Rights?

  • The ending of ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions.
  • Outlawing ‘blanket bans’ on renting to families or those who receive benefits.
  • Empowering tenants to report issues without fear of reprisals or penalties. 
  • Only allowing rental increases to occur once a year and enabling tenants to take their landlord to court to seek rent repayment if their homes are of an unacceptable standard.
  • Doubling notice periods for rent increases and giving tenants stronger powers to challenge them if they are unreasonable or arbitrary.
  • Landlords to give two months' notice of any rent changes.
  • Giving all tenants the right to keep a pet in their house, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse.
  • All tenants are to be moved onto a system of periodic tenancies, which means they can vacate poor-quality housing and reclaim rent. This also means that the tenancy will only end if the renter wants to end it or if the landlord has a valid reason defined in law.
  • Giving councils more robust powers to tackle the worst offending landlords and increasing fines for serious offences.

What Happens Next?

Before they become law, the proposed changes must pass through several stages in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Shelter’s Chief Executive Polly Neate says the plans must “keep their teeth,” and Citizens Advice’s Claire Moriarty says, “renters need to see these proposals put through parliament as soon as possible.”

The UK government will shortly publish a white paper with more refined, explicit details on the proposals for reform in the private rented sector. The Renters Reform Bill will continue to develop.

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