The Government’s recently confirmed Renters (Reform) Bill, finally introduced to Parliament on 17 May 2023, is aimed at delivering on the government’s commitment to “bring in a better deal for renters”, including abolishing ‘no fault’ evictions and reforming landlord possession grounds. It will legislate for reforms set out in the private rented sector white paper published in June 2022.
Overview of Bill measures
The Renters (Reform) Bill will improve the system for both the 11 million private renters and 2.3 million landlords in England. Our reforms have been developed in consultation with landlord and tenant groups over the past 5 years. The Renters (Reform) Bill will:
- Abolish section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and move to a simpler tenancy structure where all assured tenancies are periodic – providing more security for tenants and empowering them to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of eviction;
- Introduce more comprehensive possession grounds so landlords can still recover their property (including where they wish to sell their property or move in close family) and to make it easier to repossess properties where tenants are at fault, for example in cases of anti-social behaviour and repeat rent arrears;
- Provide stronger protections against backdoor eviction by ensuring tenants are able to appeal excessively above-market rents which are purely designed to force them out. As now, landlords will still be able to increase rents to market price for their properties and an independent tribunal will make a judgement on this, if needed. To avoid fettering the freedom of the judiciary, the tribunal will continue to be able to determine the actual market rent of a property;
- Introduce a new Private Rented Sector Ombudsman which will provide fair, impartial, and binding resolution to many issues and prove quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial than the court system;
- Create a Privately Rented Property Portal to help landlords 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. It will also support local councils – helping them target enforcement activity where it is needed most; and
- Give tenants the right to request a pet in the property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. To support this, landlords will be able to require pet insurance to cover any damage to their property.
Further improvements to the private rented sector
Alongside the Renters (Reform) Bill, the government is working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service, to ensure that, in the small proportion of tenancies where court action is required, court users can use a modern, digital service. This remains a priority for the government. Following the recommendation of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee, we will align the abolition of section 21 and new possession grounds with court improvements. This includes end-to-end digitisation of the process and their work with the courts to explore the prioritisation of certain cases, including anti-social behaviour.
The private rented sector white paper also committed to further reforms to support both landlords and tenants. The government has stated that they remain fully committed to implementing these reforms and will bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity to:
- Apply the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector to give renters safer, better value homes and remove the blight of poor-quality homes in local communities. This is aimed at helping to deliver the government’s Levelling Up mission to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030. They launched a consultation in September 2022to ensure the Decent Homes Standard is applied and enforced appropriately and fairly in the private rented sector.
- Make it illegal for landlords and agents to have blanket bans on renting to tenants in receipt of benefits or with children – ensuring no family is unjustly discriminated against when looking for a place to live.
- Strengthen local councils’ enforcement powers and introduce a new requirement for councils to report on enforcement activity – to help target criminal landlords.