The Renters’ Reform Bill White Paper launched today, prompting a mixed response from landlord groups and charities.
The paper sets out measures to scrap section 21 no-fault evictions, extend the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector and introduce a property portal to enable tenants to check their landlord is decent and make it easier for local authorities to crackdown on rogue landlords.
Landlords will only be allowed to increase rent per year, while tenants will be able to challenge excessive rent increases in the First Tier Tribunal.
The government will explore how tenants can be repaid rent in situations where their home is non-decent by expanding rent repayment orders.
Meanwhile landlords will have to join a new Ombudsman, which will be designed to provide key information and resolve disputes with tenants without having to go to the courts.
Nathan Emerson, chief executive of Propertymark, said: “After waiting three years to see exactly what this reform will look like, we’ve now got a set of proposals titled ‘The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper’. But there are some elements that don’t appear to be so. How is it fair that a tenant can simply end a tenancy at a time of their choosing, but an agent or landlord has to present a valid reason that is defined in law?
“We’ve already set out broadly what we think reform should look like in our The Future of Renting paper.
“Now we have the detail of what’s being proposed, we will be closely scrutinising it and working with Ministers to help them understand how on a practical level it will impact our letting agents members and their landlords.
“Our sector provides around 4.4 million households in England with a place to live. Property is a good long-term investment but the number of property owners choosing to withdraw from this area is growing*. That’s the result of a decade of tax and regulatory burden that simply does not incentivise investment, especially for single property landlords who make up 43% of the market.
“The private rental market is already under huge strain with renters outstripping available properties and we need to be able to attract new investment.
“If Ministers really do want to create a ‘fairer private rented sector’, they must work with us to ensure these reforms are carefully balanced and any interventions to achieve short-term objectives do not constrain the market in the longer term.”
Richard Donnell, executive director of research & insight at Zoopla, said: “With the backdrop of the cost of living crisis putting pressure on renters, these reforms are welcome and timely, particularly as they’re largely focused on boosting the quality of housing in the rented sector. The private rented sector plays an important role in the housing market, providing much needed homes for a wide spectrum of households. These reforms mark another milestone in the journey to create a suitable equilibrium between renters and private landlords who provide the majority of homes for rent.”
“However, it’s important to note that the private rented sector is under growing strain due to lower levels of new investment by private landlords, largely a result of tax changes and more regulation. There are a growing number of amateur, private landlords exiting the market, offsetting the increased investment from corporate landlords and institutional investors into the build-to-rent market. There is a delicate balance to ensure reforms don’t compound these supply-side challenges which continue to keep an upward pressure on rents, which have risen 11% in the last year. Ensuring decent homes is paramount but so is the investment into this important sector of the housing market.”
“The Zoopla Lettings Advisory Board has advocated a range of initiatives to improve the transparency over the process of owning and renting homes. In particular, the need for a property register for rented homes to help with compliance on standards of accommodation and the move to define when homes meet the Decent Homes Standard for private rented homes. This will also boost transparency for renters and landlords who both have to deal with often complex regulatory requirements. There is a lot of detail to work through in how this is rolled out and Zoopla will continue to work with our advisory board and estate agency partners to seek operational efficiencies in the lettings market through our software platforms.”
The National Residential Landlords Association
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “Whilst headline commitments to strengthening possession grounds, speedier court processes and mediation are helpful, the detail to follow must retain the confidence of responsible landlords, as well as improving tenants’ rights.
“We will be analysing the Government’s plans carefully to ensure they meet this test. A failure to do so will exacerbate the housing crisis at a time when renters are struggling to find the homes they need.
“The eventual legislation needs to recognise that government actions have led to a shortage of supply in the sector at a time of record demand. It is causing landlords to leave the sector and driving up rents when people can least afford it.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The Renters’ Reform Bill is a gamechanger for England’s 11 million private renters. Scrapping unfair evictions will level the playing field. For the first time in a long time, tenants will be able to stand up to bad behaviour instead of living in fear.
“This White Paper promises people safety and security in their home, and it makes clear that landlords need to play by the rules. Gone will be the days of families being uprooted and children forced to move school after being slapped with a Section 21 no-fault eviction for no good reason.
“As these plans move through Parliament, they’ve got to keep their teeth to drive up standards and professionalise private renting. For every renter trapped in a never-ending nightmare of moving from one shoddy rental to the next, the Renters’ Reform Bill cannot come soon enough.
“The Renters Reform Bill cannot come soon enough as newly released figures by Shelter and YouGov show three quarters of private renters in England – equivalent to 8.5 million people – have endured poor or dangerous conditions in their home, such as mould, broken boilers, and electrical hazards, in the last year.
“Previous research from the charity also demonstrates how insecure private renting currently is, with a private renter in England handed a Section 21 no-fault eviction notice every seven minutes by their landlord. The damaging impact of these unfair evictions is borne out in the latest government homelessness figures with homelessness due to no-fault evictions up 37% on pre-pandemic levels
Alicia Kennedy, Director of Generation Rent, said: “It is very welcome to finally have this White Paper.
“It has been more than three years since the government first committed to getting rid of Section 21 evictions.
“Thousands of tenants have lost their homes on their landlord’s say-so in that time and many more will live with uncertainty until this legislation is passed.
“The private renters we represent have been telling the government it is too easy to find themselves renting from unscrupulous landlords who fail to keep their homes in good condition. So it is positive that the measures include mandatory registration of landlords through a property portal and an Ombudsman to hold landlords to account – hopefully meaning there will be more ways to claim back rent on substandard properties.
“The government has also rightly recognised renters need flexibility, which periodic tenancies will provide. Making it illegal to have a blanket bans to protect families with children and people receiving benefits is also very welcome.
“However we’re disappointed with the detail around the new proposed ‘no fault’ grounds which allow landlords to evict tenants to sell or move family in.
“The government proposals still mean a renter could be evicted every 8 months due to no fault of their own.
“Renters, especially those with children in local schools, need longer than a few months to pack up and move out. And with every unwanted move costing around £1700 this is too much to pay without compensation when it’s not your choice to move.
“Without proper safeguards we could still see thousands of tenants facing the hardship of unwanted moves, and more staying quiet about disrepair out of fear of a retaliatory eviction.
“If the government can get the detail right and give tenants the confidence they need to request improvements and plan for the long term, this legislation has the potential to improve the lives of millions throughout England.”