The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has released in full the white paper entitled A Fairer Private Rented Sector. The government has announced that it is proposing to introduce its subsequent Renters Reform Bill in Parliament before March 2023.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove has promised the “biggest shake-up of the rented sector for 30 years” with proposals targeted at the 21% of private rented sector tenants who “currently live in unfit homes”.
Prefacing the 80-page document, Gove stated that “the White Paper builds on the vision of the Levelling Up White Paper and sets out our plans to fundamentally reform the Private Rented Sector and level up housing quality”.
The proposals potentially represent the biggest shakeup of the private rented sector in 30 years.
The White Paper’s 12-point plan includes:
- Halving the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030 and requiring privately rented homes to meet the Decent Homes Standard for the first time. This will give renters safer, better value homes and remove the blight of poor-quality homes in local communities.
- Accelerating quality improvements in the areas that need it most. The government will run pilot schemes with a selection of local councils to explore different ways of enforcing standards and work with landlords to speed up adoption of the Decent Homes Standard.
- Abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions to deliver a simpler, more secure tenancy structure. A tenancy will only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession, empowering tenants to challenge poor practice and reducing costs associated with unexpected moves.
- Reform of grounds for possession to make sure that landlords have effective means to gain possession of their properties when necessary. Landlords’ ability to evict those who disrupt neighbourhoods through antisocial behaviour will be expedited and new grounds for persistent arrears and sale of the property will be introduced.
- Rent increases will be capped at once per year, rent review clauses will end, and tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases will be improved through the First Tier Tribunal to support people to manage their costs and to remain in their homes.
- Tenants’ ability to hold their landlord to account will be strengthened and a new single Ombudsman that all private landlords must join will be introduced. This will provide fair, impartial, and binding resolution to many issues and be quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial than the court system. Alongside this, the government will consider how they can bolster and expand existing rent repayment orders and enable tenants to be repaid rent for non-decent homes.
- The government will work with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to target the areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings. The government will also strengthen mediation and alternative dispute resolution to enable landlords and tenants to work together to reduce the risk of issues escalating.
- A new Property Portal will be launched to make sure that tenants, landlords and local councils have the information they need. The portal will provide a single ‘front door’ for landlords to understand their responsibilities, tenants will be able to access information about their landlord’s compliance, and local councils will have access to better data to crack down on criminal landlords. Subject to consultation with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the government also intends to incorporate some of the functionality of the Database of Rogue Landlords, mandating the entry of all eligible landlord offences and making them publicly visible.
- Local councils’ enforcement powers and ability to crack down on criminal landlords will be strengthened with increased investigative powers and a strengthening of the fine regime for serious offences. The government is also exploring a requirement for local councils to report Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities A Fairer Private Rented Sector 7 on their housing enforcement activity and want to recognise those local councils that are doing a good job.
- Legislation will be introduced to make it illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits and explore if similar action is needed for other vulnerable groups, such as prison leavers. The government will improve support to landlords who let to people on benefits, which will reduce barriers for those on the lowest incomes.
- Tenants will have the right to request a pet in their property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. The Tenant Fees Act 2019 will also be amended so that landlords can request that their tenants buy pet insurance.
- The government will work with industry experts to monitor the development of innovative market-led solutions to passport deposits. This will help tenants who struggle to raise a second deposit to move around the PRS more easily and support tenants to save for ownership.
Michael Gove, Housing Secretary, said:
“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, with the threat of unfair ‘no fault’ evictions orders hanging over them.
Our New Deal for renters will help to end this injustice by improving the rights and conditions for millions of renters as we level up across the country and deliver on the people’s priorities.”
Press Release: New deal for private renters published today
White Paper: A Fairer Private Rented Sector