The biggest change in the rental sector for over a decade....
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 anytime.
The Renters Reform Bill aims to protect the rights of tenants and landlords. It is being released by Housing Secretary Michael Gove in the week commencing 8 May 2023.
Speaking about the Bill last year, Gove said, ‘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.
What Is the Renters Reform Bill?
What Is a Section 21 ‘No Fault’ Eviction?
Is Section 21 Being Abolished?
Strengthening the Section 8 Notice
What Are the New Landlord Rules?
What Are the Changes to Renters’ Rights?
Referred to as the ‘biggest change to renters law in a generation’, the Renters Reform Bill 2022 includes changes that will positively impact tenants and landlords in the private sector.
It sets out to ensure that:
The reform bill also includes the following changes to ensure greater landlord and tenant satisfaction:
Under current UK law, landlords can give a Section 21 notice to evict tenants without providing a reason, even if the tenant didn’t break any aspect of their tenancy agreement
‘No fault’ evictions can result in homelessness. Before the pandemic, the loss of a tenancy was the leading cause of homelessness, and the government banned unfair evictions to prevent people from losing their homes.
There are reasonable circumstances in which it is legitimate to evict a tenant, such as:
In the past, landlords have issued eviction notices after falling out with a 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, under reasonable circumstances.
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 banned. This means that private landlords cannot evict tenants without a legitimate reason.
All tenants will be able to benefit from a system of periodic tenancies, putting an end to fixed-term tenancies.
This means that they can leave poor-quality properties if their housing is deemed unfit to live in. They can also request a repayment of their rent.
The change also grants them the freedom and the right to move more easily when their circumstances change.
Existing tenancies will only end if a tenant chooses to leave or if a landlord has a valid reason, as defined in law.
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 tenant reluctance 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.
This had a negative impact on their mental health and even their children’s education.
These consultations paved the way for the proposed 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 was also proposed that Section 21 is replaced by a more straightforward tenancy proposal that ensures greater tenant security.
This was done to try and ensure that the tenancy will only end if the tenant ends it, or if the landlord has valid grounds for terminating it.
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.
Both landlords and tenants will also have a better understanding about their rights and responsibilities to each other and to the property.
The white paper status also provides greater security for tenants, while keeping the flexibility that privately rented accommodation offers.
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 tenant’s security and the landlord’s 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 use it as their private home.
However, this right isn’t currently extended to 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.
To support these changes, the government will introduce wide-ranging court reforms. These will be aimed at areas of the court system that often hold up possession proceedings.
The reforms will cover:
County court baliff capacity
Advice on court and tribunal processes
Prioritisation of cases
The proposals outlined in the Renters Reform Bill aim to provide housing that conforms to Decent Home Standards, and to clamp down on landlords who provide unfit homes.
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.
They will have the power to provide recourse for tenants in disputes with landlords, including compelling landlords to:
Provide requested information
Pay compensation up to £25,000
Reimburse tenants where property service or standards have fallen short
Ban landlords from renting property if they fail to comply with the ombudsman’s requests
A new property portal website will 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.
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, and it will receive engagement with representative groups to ensure that it 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. It will work alongside those who already provide information to landlords and tenants, such as the National Residential Landlords Association.
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 in the meantime.
PHOTO BY Illustrations @ EVO
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