The government has today finally introduced the Renters’ (Reform) Bill, which it says will lead to 11 million tenants across England benefiting from safer, fairer and higher quality homes.
The bill abolishes section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions which will apparently empower renters to challenge poor landlords without fear of losing their home.
According to the government, the bill also protects over two million landlords, making it easier for them to recover properties when they need to – so they can sell their property if they want to, move in a close family member, or when tenants wilfully do not pay rent. Notice periods will also be reduced where tenants have been irresponsible.
The reforms will strengthen powers to evict anti-social tenants, broadening the disruptive and harmful activities that can lead to eviction and making it quicker to evict a tenant acting anti-socially.
To ensure the new tenancy systems works for landlords and tenants, it will be introduced alongside a reformed courts process. For the minority of evictions that do end up in the courts, more of the process will be digitised, which the government says will reduce delays.
Additionally, a new ombudsman will provide quicker and cheaper resolutions to disputes, while a new digital property portal will enable landlords to understand their obligations and help tenants make better decisions when signing a new tenancy agreement. The government believes the measures will give confidence to good landlords, while driving the criminal minority out of business.
Housing secretary Michael Gove said: “Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them.
“This government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a New Deal to those living in the Private Rented Sector; one with quality, affordability, and fairness at its heart.
“Our new laws introduced to parliament today will support the vast majority of responsible landlords who provide quality homes to their tenants, while delivering our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions.
“This will ensure that everyone can live somewhere which is decent, safe and secure – a place they’re truly proud to call home.”
Tenants will also be given the legal right to request a pet in their home, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. Landlords will be able to require pet insurance to cover any damage to their property.
The government will also bring forward legislation as part of the bill to:
- Apply the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time, giving renters safer, higher quality homes and remove the blight of poor-quality homes in local communities. This will help deliver the government’s Levelling Up mission to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030
- 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 councils’ enforcement powers and introduce a new requirement for councils to report on enforcement activity – to help target criminal landlords.
Dan Wilson Craw, Acting Director, Generation Rent, said: “The Renters (Reform) Bill is a massive step forward for England’s 11 million private renters. The abolition of arbitrary Section 21 evictions and the need for landlords to have a legitimate reason to get their property back will give tenants confidence to report problems about their home and plan their lives more easily.
“The ability to demand improvements without fear of a revenge eviction will help improve the shockingly poor conditions in the private rented sector. The introduction of a property portal and ombudsman are also welcome and will help to drive up standards as tools to root out the worst landlords in the sector, if enforced properly.
“We are concerned that, without stronger safeguards, new legitimate grounds could still allow unscrupulous landlords to achieve Section 21 by the back door. We need a longer period where landlords are banned from re-letting a property after claiming they need it back to sell or move in, and better protections from unaffordable rent increases.
“Even when landlords genuinely need the property for their own use, tenants should have much more protection than the two months’ notice they currently get. We want to see the notice period doubled and financial support from the landlord to mitigate the upheaval these evictions cause.
“There is still a way to go, but this Bill wouldn’t be possible without the tireless campaigning of Generation Rent supporters and our colleagues on the Renters Reform Coalition. It is now in the hands of MPs and peers to make these improvements a reality, but renters will continue to keep the pressure on.”
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “We welcome the government’s pledge to ensure landlords can swiftly recover properties from anti-social tenants and those failing to pay their rent. Plans to digitise court hearings will also improve the speed at which legitimate possession cases are processed.
“The NRLA will continue to work with the government to ensure the detail of the Bill is fair for responsible landlords and tenants alike.”
Michael Webb, Head of Policy & Public Affairs, Battersea Cats & Dogs Home, said: “Tenants being unable to find anywhere to rent with their pet is sadly one of the most common reasons people bring their animals to Battersea. Not only will this Bill bring us one step closer to significantly reducing the number of dogs and cats we see being needlessly separated from their owners, it will also open up the many joys of pet ownership to millions of renters in the future. As this Bill now begins its journey through Parliament, we look forward to continuing to work with the Housing department, tenants and landlords to help ensure a fairer rental sector for pets and people alike.”
Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Propertymark, said: “Reforms to the private rented sector in England have been long awaited and the Bill will bring much needed clarity to letting agents, their landlords and tenants. Propertymark will support the UK Government to ensure the specific details work in practice for those on the ground, whilst providing both security and fairness for both parties of the rental agreement. It is also important implementation is well planned and managed as these reforms are significant for the sector.”
Cllr Darren Rodwell, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “We are pleased to see that the Renters’ Reform Bill will take steps to ensure private renters have a home that is safe and stable, increasing the rights of tenants and enabling people to better hold their landlord to account.
“The removal of ‘no fault’ evictions is a significant step towards tackling our national homelessness crisis, and we are also glad to see the introduction of an Ombudsman for the private rented sector, as an additional mechanism for tenants to seek appropriate redress from their landlord.
“Improved access to data on the private rented sector and mandated landlord registration through the Property Portal will also increase councils’ oversight of and ability to enforce against the small minority of landlords guilty of criminal behaviour.
“The LGA will continue to work with the Government to ensure that councils have the right powers, skills, capacity and resources to undertake effective enforcement activity to improve standards in the private rented sector.”
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “We welcome any change to the law that gives private renters greater security. No fault evictions cause untold upheaval and stress for those renting privately, forcing them to uproot their lives and, for those on low incomes, often putting them at risk of homelessness.
“The changes announced today will be particularly important for families living in private rented homes. Since 2006, the number of families forced to rent privately has doubled, largely due to the severe shortage of social housing. Even after these reforms, renting privately is still typically twice as expensive and less secure than renting social housing. Alongside improved security and regulation in the private rented sector, we urgently need a long-term national plan to build more social rented homes – the only type of home that is suitable, secure and affordable for families on low incomes.
“We will continue to work closely with the government to ensure that the details of the legislation don’t have any unintended consequences for housing associations and particularly providers of supported housing.”
The Dogs Trust said: “We welcome today’s announcement that responsible pet owners who rent will be given new rights under the new Renters (Reform) Bill. Under this new bill, announced by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, landlords will no longer be able to unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge unfair decisions through a new Private Rented Sector Ombudsman.
“We have been campaigning for many years for greater rights for responsible dog owners who rent. Around one in ten people who contact us to rehome their dog, cite issues with accommodation, such as being unable to find suitable rental accommodation, forcing them to make the difficult decision to rehome their dog.
“Research conducted by us and Cats Protection revealed that landlords are currently split on whether they currently allow pets, with 46% saying they allow pets. However, the number of tenants saying their tenancy allows pets is much lower than this, with just 30% saying their landlord would allow a dog in the property.
“The same research revealed that, in over a third of cases where cats or dogs have not been allowed by a private landlord, the landlord did not proactively decide this based on the individual tenants or pets, but either followed advice or a used a standard template.
“Allowing pets in rental properties is not just good for the tenants; there are advantages to landlords too as it could increase the length of time tenants choose to rent a property. Research conducted by us and Cats Protection found that 26% of tenants would stay longer in a property if they were allowed to keep a pet.”
CIH chief executive Gavin Smart said: “All renters should be able to live in decent, secure and affordable homes and to settle in their community. We support the government’s commitment to help deliver on this through a Renters (Reform) Bill.
“Given cost of living pressures and rising homelessness rates, often linked to the end of a private rented sector tenancy, we particularly welcome the end of the landlord’s right to end the tenancy without good reason and measures to tackle arbitrary and unfair rent increases.
“We’re pleased to see the establishment of an Ombudsman for private renters and a portal to support private landlords to understand and fulfil their obligations, and to enable tenants to better hold their landlords to account.
“We recognise the need for landlords to be able to recover their properties in certain circumstances, but it is important to ensure that protections are in place as antisocial behaviour can be misidentified, especially in situations where domestic abuse is present.
“We look forward to the Government introducing the further key provisions committed to in the White Paper – applying the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector, making it illegal for landlords and agents to have blanket bans on renting to tenants in receipt of benefits or with children, and strengthening local councils’ enforcement powers.
“We will work with our members and partners in examining the detail to ensure the new measures are workable and provide appropriate protections.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London, said: “The mayor welcomes the government’s commitment to finally end Section 21 evictions – something he and many others have long called for. However, this is too little, too late – the bill needs to go much further to protect renters from unaffordable rent hikes and to protect survivors of domestic abuse from being evicted due to the behaviour of a partner.
“Rents in London have increased by 14 percent in the last year, the highest rate of any region. In a recent survey, 40 percent of Londoners feared that they would struggle to pay their rent in the next six months. This Bill leaves the door open for landlords to continue to increase already unaffordable rents, leaving many tenants in a perilous position and vulnerable to homelessness.
“This is why the mayor is once again urging the government to take action to make rents more affordable for Londoners, including by giving him the power to introduce an emergency two-year rent freeze and devolve the power to implement rent controls.”