The Renters Reform Bill – What It Is And How It Will Affect Tenants

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Renters Reform Bill 2023

The Renters Reform Bill – What It Is And How It Will Affect Tenants

or call Legal HD on 0161 974 7350

Three and a half years on from forming a major part of the Conservative party’s manifesto pledge at the 2019 election, the Renters Reform Bill will finally be heard in Parliament this week. However, Michael Gove, the levelling-up, housing and communities secretary, has received a mixed response to the Bill he will be unveiling, with rental sector experts welcoming some elements of the widespread changes, but even some members of his own party are sceptical about others.

With the rental sector now twice as large as it was 20 years ago, and a network of around two million landlords in the UK, it is perhaps not surprising that there is so much interest in a Bill that has taken nearly four years to be fine-tuned so that it is ready to be heard in Parliament.

So what is the Renters Reform Bill and how will it affect tenants? Here we offer a summary of the main features and provide some expert insight into what this means for you:

A summary of the Renters Reform Bill

The Renters Reform Bill has been dubbed the biggest overhaul of the rental sector since the 1988 Housing Act deregulated the sector in favour of landlords. The highlight elements of the proposed Renters Reform Bill include:

  • Section 21 evictions will be scrapped – this section of the Housing Act has been nicknamed ‘no-fault evictions’, and the reforms mean landlords will now have to claim a specific reason for evicting a tenant, providing the tenant with a layer of protection.
  • Tenants can be evicted for rent arrears that are deemed to be repeated and serious. Previously there was a loophole where if a tenant paid their arrears before a possession hearing they could avoid eviction.
  • The rent increase notice period will be increased from one month to two.
  • A landlord cannot increase rent more than once per year.
  • The process for evictions on the grounds of anti-social behaviour and rent arrears will be fast-tracked.
  • A landlord cannot unreasonably refuse a tenant who has a pet.
  • Tenants will be able to rate landlords online and research their letting history.
  • A landlord cannot reject a tenant just because they have children or are on benefits, as long as they are paying rent on time.
  • Tenancy agreements are to become rolling, ie. they will continue automatically rather than being fixed, short term contracts.

What do experts in the rental sector think about the Rental Reform Bill?

The tenants’ charity Shelter welcomed elements of the Bill which made it harder for landlords to evict a tenant, claiming they were a “game-changer” and will help tenants who were previously “facing anguish and uncertainty…and had no protection or security if they complained”. Other rental sector experts specifically welcomed the scrapping of Section 21 evictions, claiming it takes away the stress of renting and improves the element of trust between the tenant and landlord.

Speaking at this week’s National Conservative Conference, Michael Gove justified the need for the widespread reforms and acknowledged that the rental sector was now much bigger because the Government has largely failed in its targets for creating more new housing. He said:

“The problem is there simply aren’t enough homes in this country, it is increasingly difficult to get on the property ladder. We do need to think about supply, but we also need to think about how it is that we can help people, particularly younger people, in that increasingly competitive market to get the first-time buyer support that they need.”

Concerns about landlords exploiting a loophole over evictions

However, there is also some opposition to the reforms, with some experts claiming that inflation-busting rent is still a huge concern and a threat that the landlord can always act upon when faced with complaints or rent arrears. There are concerns that abolishing Section 21 notices will have little effect, because the landlord can use a ‘loophole’ of hiking rents to force tenants out instead of the ‘no fault eviction’. Section 8 of the Housing Act allows evictions on the grounds of rent arrears or damage to a property, which can lead to a County Court judgement to evict the tenant. One Conservative MP – a member of the House of Commons’ Levelling-Up Communities and Housing Committee – feared there would now be a spike in Section 8 evictions, and also claimed up to 30 colleagues had similar concerns about the Bill.

Another concern highlighted was that fast-tracking evictions for anti-social behaviour could miss grey areas where the root cause of ‘anti-social behaviour’ could be unclear or misinterpreted. A landlord could claim a case of anti-social behaviour when really it was a case of domestic abuse, or any kind of incident of disorder where the tenant was completely innocent.

Meanwhile, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, Lisa Nandy, claimed the Bill doesn’t go far enough and called for some further measures, namely:

  • A four-month notice period for rent increases
  • A national register of landlords
  • Further new rights for tenants, such as being able to make alterations to the home, support with housing disrepair claims and forcing landlords to make repairs quicker, and tenants having pets.

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If you are a tenant and need support with understanding your rights when it comes to making a housing disrepair claim, get in touch with Legal HD today for expert help and advice.

Andrew Dow - Legal HD Co-Founder
Peter Hartley - Legal HD Co-Founder

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