What is the Renters’ Reform Bill?

In its 2019 manifesto, the Government promised a “better deal for renters”, to include abolishing ‘no fault evictions’ and only requiring one ‘lifetime deposit’ to move with the tenant. The manifesto pledged to protect tenants from revenge evictions and rogue landlords, and to strengthen ‘good’ landlord’s rights of repossession. Later that year, in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019, the Government announced the progression of a Renters’ Reform Bill to “deliver a fairer and more effective rental market”.

The Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022 has revisited the Renters’ Reform Bill, outlining its objectives and stating its intention to shortly publish a White Paper setting out more detail on their proposals for “landmark reform” in the private rented sector.

The main elements of the Bill are:

Abolishing ‘no fault’ evictions by removing section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and reforming the grounds for possession

As the law currently stands, a landlord may achieve vacant possession of their property by serving a valid ‘section 21 notice’ on their tenant to bring the assured shorthold tenancy to an end.

Whilst landlords may see the removal of section 21 notices as an unwelcome barrier to achieving vacant possession of their property, charities such as Shelter and The Big Issue have pointed out the devastating effects that section 21 notices can have on tenants. Shelter says that this bill must be brought forward so that every private renter has long-term security in their home without the constant fear of eviction. Shelter reports that some tenants tolerate dangerous living conditions as they are afraid of eviction if they complain.

Applying the legally binding Decent Homes Standard in the Private Rented Sector for the first time ever

The Decent Homes Standard, introduced by the Department for Communities and Local Government, is currently under review and will be announced later this year. The current criteria for a “decent home” are:

  1. It must meet the current statutory minimum standard for housing;
  2. It must be in a reasonable state of repair;
  3. It must have reasonably modern facilities and services; and
  4. It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.

The government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has indicated an intention to make these standards legally binding for all rented houses in England as part of its “Levelling Up” agenda. The objective is to give tenants “safer, better quality and better value homes”.

Reforming current legislation to give landlord more rights to gain “legitimate” possession of their property through the courts

The bill is not entirely focused on the tenant’s rights, with measures also being taken to protect the landlord. One problem the bill aims to address is to reform possession grounds for landlords, introducing ‘new and stronger grounds for repeated incidences of rent arrears and reducing notice periods for anti-social behaviour, ensuring that they can regain their property efficiently when needed’.

Introduce a new Ombudsman for private landlords to prevent court intervention

The Bill also outlines plans to introduce a new Ombudsman for this specific purpose, ‘so that disputes can be easily resolved without the need to go to court, which is often costly and lengthy, and ensure that when residents make a complaint, landlords take action to put things right’.  The ombudsman is expected to cover all rented properties let by private landlords to ensure that when tenants make a complaint, landlords take steps to resolve the reported issues. This will, in turn, reduce the number of disputes ending up in court.

Introducing a new property portal to help landlords understand their obligations

The Bill proposes a property portal to “help landlords understand their obligations, give tenants performance information to hold their landlord to account as well as aiding local authorities”. Local authorities will have access to the portal, which in turn should hopefully combat inadequate performance by landlords.

The implementation of the Renters’ Reform Bill will be a step in the right direction to protect both the landlord and tenant from costly and stressful disputes.

rhw Solicitors in Guildford (logo) If you are a landlord or tenant and need advice in respect of a tenancy dispute, please contact our experienced dispute resolution team.

Call us on 01483 302 000 or email guildford@rhw.co.uk