In 2021, the number of households occupied by private renters reached 4.43 million, more than twice the amount (2.03 million) in 2000 – and according to a new forecast, another 230,000 rental homes will be needed to avoid a shortfall at the current rates of growth.
So, it’s unsurprising that individuals who rent their homes don’t want to do anything that risks an eviction or actions that might lead to increased rents.
Many Landlords, or the Agents acting on their behalf, require certain criteria to be met before a rental agreement can be reached – this often includes up-front payments (such as large deposits), specific do’s and don’ts once in the property (such as no pets, no smoking, no sub-letting), and some groups of people (like families, pet owners, or those in receipt of specific benefits) can find themselves excluded from even getting as far as signing an agreement.
The UK Government has been working on the Renter’s Reform Bill as a way of combatting the small minority of Landlords and Agents who have been using existing legislation as a way of penalising renters and making the rental terms disadvantageous to the tenant.
“For too long, many private renters have been at the mercy of unscrupulous Landlords who fail to repair homes and let families live in damp, unsafe, and cold properties,” Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove stated, continuing that, “Our New Deal for renters will help to end this injustice by improving the rights and conditions for millions of renters.”
The Renter’s Reform Bill has yet to pass through the House of Commons and the House of Lords yet, but in the May 2022 Queen’s Speech, delivered by HRH Prince Charles, the promise was made to “strengthen the rights of tenants,” with the New Deal (Renter’s Reform Bill) set to ‘bring the biggest reforms to the private rental sector in decades’.
The Bill has met with some issue from rental agencies and advocates, who believe that changing existing legislation could lead to unfair conditions on Landlords, but it has been praised and accepted by many charities, anti-poverty organisations, and campaigners who agree that all renters deserve to live in acceptable homes.
So, what does the Renter’s Reform Bill mean to you? We’ve put together five points to look out for, whether you’re a tenant or a Landlord.
- The Rental Reform Bill aims to Ban Section 21 ‘No-Fault’ Evictions
At present, Landlords and Agents are able to use a piece of legislative action which is known as Section 21, to issue a notice requiring a renting tenant to leave the property. It does not require that a tenant did anything wrong or violated an agreement, it simply means the termination of the lease without reason.Since the introduction of Section 21 in April 2019, nearly 230,000 private renters have been served with a formal no-fault eviction notice. For many, it’s the existence of this clause that prevents them from speaking up about poor conditions or unfavourable situations – as they have (in the words of Michael Gove), “the threat of unfair ‘no fault’ eviction orders hanging over them.’As there is some push-back in this area from Landords and Agents, who worry that they will lose the right to remove toxic, aggressive, anti-social, and inappropriate tenants – this portion of the Bill is likely to come under some scrutiny and face adjustments before the Bill can be pushed through the Houses of Parliament.
- More Protection Would be Offered to Renters
In order to make rental opportunities fairer to all involved, the Bill seeks to address unfavourable actions taken against renters. This includes increasing the amount of time a Landlord or Agent must give a renter when notifying them of an increase to the rent (up to double the amount of time) and allowing renters legal recourse should the notice be issued with an incorrect time period, disallowing unreasonable refusals when considering tenants with pets, and ensuring that properties must be free from serious health or safety hazards.
- Under the Proposed Bill, Tenants Would be Able to Take Legal Action Regarding the Property
Should a rental property be found to be in an unacceptable living condition, the Bill seeks to allow tenants more rights and abilities to ensure their own safety and welfare – and they would be allowed to seek a legal course of action against a Landlord or Agency that had been informed of issues with the property (such as damp, dangerous wiring, etc), and had not (in a reasonable amount of time) addressed the issue/s.
- Local Councils Would be Given More Power to Tackle the Worst Offenders
The Reform Bill would look to giving local council authorities more powers, which would be backed by ‘enforcement pilots’ and increasing levels of fines which could be levied against Landlords and Agents who are abusing legislative loopholes or failing to comply with their responsibilities.
This could allow renters who are afraid to speak up, the chance to initiate appropriate action without retaliatory action being taken against them.
- Landlords and Agents Would Have Access to Better Support Methods
In order to support an estimated 2.3 million private landlords, the Bill would introduce the creation a new Private Renters’ Ombudsman so disputes between the renter and the landlord could be settled quickly, and at a lower cost, without having to go through the court system.
There would also be (as of yet unspecified) measures put in place so landlords can gain possession of properties from anti-social tenants, and still be able to sell the properties when they need to.
These measures would be supported by a ‘property portal’ which would provide Landlords and Agents with easy to understand guidance, information, and legal details so they can understand and comply with their responsibilities.
Whether you’re a tenant, a Landlord, or an Agent – the Renter’s Reform Bill is going to make an impact on the rights, protections, and basic quality standards of your home; and it’s worth keeping an eye on how it progresses through Parliament, in order to be ready for when it becomes law.