Renters (Reform) Bill: Everything you need to know - Total Landlord Insurance

May 1, 2024
Total Landlord Insurance
Renters (Reform) Bill: Everything you need to know - Total Landlord Insurance

We’ve got your back: we’ll keep you updated on how the reforms will affect you

Note: Articles on the Renters(Reform) Bill will be continuously updated as details emerge

Last updated 29 April 2024

Read an interactive and user-friendly version of this guide below.

Renters (Reform) Bill update: Third reading

The long awaited Renters (Reform) Bill returned to Commons for its third reading (the report stage) on 24 April 2024, where MPs considered over 200 new amendments to the legislation from both sides of the house ahead of a final vote before it continued its passage to the House of Lords.

The Government accepted key amendments to the Bill, and it was voted through this final stage in the Commons, containing several new concessions to landlords. Despite criticism from shadow housing minister, Matthew Pennycook, that the Bill contained “numerous defects, deficiencies, omissions and loopholes”, Levelling Up Minister, Jacob Young, said the Bill “will create a fairer private rented sector for both landlords and tenants.” However, Renters’ Reform Coalition, a campaign group including Shelter, withdrew its support for the Bill and other MPs were also critical of the amendments.  

Described by the NRLA as “a compromise, which allows the Government to deliver its policy of abolishing no-fault possessions, without destroying landlords’ confidence to invest [the Bill] seeks to deliver more security to tenants, whilst providing landlords with some additional options should things go wrong.”

What happens next?

In its heavily amended form, the Bill is now with the House of Lords for further scrutiny, where it will go through a similar process to the Commons – a first and second reading, followed by a more detailed committee stage, before returning to the full Lords chamber for a third reading and the Commons for the final session.

In terms of the timetable for implementation, we don’t know for sure whether the Renters (Reform) Bill will make the statue book before the general election, which is expected to be in October or November. Even if it does, implementation of parts of the Bill such as the scrapping of Section 21 will be delayed.

Commenting on next steps, Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, which like Total Landlord is powered by Total Property, said:

“It is still not certain whether the Bill will be passed. However, we have clear intent that this is now a government priority and they will do everything to get it through in some shape or form.”

Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme

In this video, Sean summarises the key changes to the Bill and what happens next.

Responding to coverage of the Renters (Reform) Bill in the press following the third reading, the DLUHC stated that the Bill’s original measures continue in the amended version. The DLUHC maintains that the Bill will:

  • Stop landlords having blanket bans on renting to those with children or who are on benefits
  • Apply and enforce the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time, so that everyone has a safe and decent home
  • For the first time give tenants a legal right to ask to have their much-loved pets in their home
  • Give landlords strengthened grounds for possession if a tenant is in rent arrears or they want to sell their property – “we are investing in the county courts so that landlords can benefit from a modern, efficient possession system”
  • Mean that landlords are able to act more quickly to evict tenants who make others’ lives miserable through anti-social behaviour
  • Help resolve disputes between landlords and tenants more quickly, with a new private rented sector Landlord Ombudsman

What are the key amendments to the Renters (Reform) Bill?

Below is an overview of the key amendments that were added to the Renters (Reform) Bill by the House of Commons at the report stage on 24 April 2024.

The process of implementation is confusing following these amendments, so we recommend reading this explanatory blog, ‘When exactly will Section 21 be abolished?’ by leading housing lawyer and Partner at JMW Solicitors, David Smith, who specialises in property rights.

We are grateful to self-managing landlord and lawyer, Suzanne Smith, aka ‘The Independent Landlord’, for her detailed summary of the amendments in her blog post ‘The latest news on the Renters Reform Bill, which we found to be very informative and have drawn on in our overview.

Clause 30: Delayed abolition of Section 21

The scrapping of Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices has been central to the legislation since the Bill was first introduced. This has been retained, but there is no definitive time frame. The abolition of Section 21 won’t happen until court reform has taken place, despite Labour’s objections and contrary to previous assurances that this would happen before the next election.

Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action, which like Total Landlord is powered by Total Property, is in agreement that court reforms are necessary to make sure the system can effectively handle the increase in Section 8 proceedings that will result from the abolition of Section 21. But he feels a clear commitment to when these reforms will be implemented is essential to provide both landlords and tenants with the certainty and confidence they need to navigate the evolving rental landscape.

Commenting on this, Paul said:

“A transparent roadmap outlining the steps and timeline for court reforms would provide much-needed clarity to all parties involved, allowing landlords to plan accordingly and making sure all parties have access to fair and efficient legal recourse.

In essence, while I agree that court reforms are necessary to accommodate the almost certain increase in Section 8 proceedings - approximately another 30,000 hearings a year - a clear commitment to when these reforms will be implemented is essential to provide landlords and tenants alike with the certainty and confidence they need to navigate the evolving rental market landscape.”

Paul highlights that the uncertainty surrounding the future of Section 21 has already led many landlords to sell their properties. This trend ultimately impacts tenants by shrinking the pool of available rental properties, leading to increased competition and potentially higher rents. In this context, a clear commitment to timely court reforms is not only crucial for landlords' peace of mind but also for maintaining a healthy rental market that serves the needs of both landlords and tenants.

Here, Paul Shamplina provides an update on the Renters (Reform) Bill and the delayed abolition of Section 21.

Find out more about what’s happening to evictions and Section 21.

Tenants will not be able to serve notice to quit in first four months of tenancy

A key amendment to the Bill will require tenants to give two months’ notice to leave a rental property, but only after they have been there for four months, effectively creating a minimum six month tenancy by default, as is already the case with most ASTs - the average tenancy currently lasts between four and four and a half years.

This amendment is a significant change to the previous draft of the Bill, which abolished fixed term tenancies, allowing tenants to serve a notice to quit at any time from day one of the tenancy, potentially turning long term tenancies into short term lets.

Commenting on this amendment, Brendan Geraghty, CEO of The Association for Rental Living (ARL), the representative body for rental living sector in the UK, said “from a landlord’s perspective it is very important that we have an effective six month assured tenancy as effectively tabled in the amendments at this stage. Without this we would likely see an exodus in investment in rental accommodation which would exacerbate the already evident housing crisis.”

An amendment was suggested that both parties could mutually agree to enter into a fixed term tenancy. This was not accepted for debate at the third reading in the Commons, but may come back at the next stage in the House of Lords. In addition, exemptions may be considered such as the death of a tenant, domestic abuse or significant hazards in the property.

Find out more about how rental tenancies are changing.

Changes to Ground 4A student tenancies

In her blog post, The latest news on the Renters Reform Bill, Suzanne Smith explains the key changes to Ground 4A:

“The existing draft of the Bill includes a specific Ground for Possession for HMO students. A new government amendment removes the requirement in the new ground for possession of a student house for the house to be an HMO. It is also no longer necessary for the students to be joint tenants.”

This amendment would mean that the ground for possession for student properties could also be used for properties occupied by just one or two students, which would not otherwise be considered as HMOs, so long as they meet existing requirements. In her blog, Suzanne explains that these stay the same, as follows:

• The tenants must be full-time students, or the landlord needs to have reasonable grounds to believe they would become a full-time student during the tenancy

• The landlord must give at least two months’ notice, with the notice to expire between 1 June and 30 September

• The landlord must intend to let the property to full-time students or those who the landlord believes will become full-time students during the tenancy

• For students in England and Wales, the student must be studying a full time higher education course

Changes to rent repayment orders

An amendment concerning the ‘rent-to-rent’ sector also made it through. MPs agreed that the Housing Act 2004 would be altered so that ‘superior’ landlords as well as rent-to-rent companies (the ‘immediate’ landlord) are both covered when served with improvement notices and could be liable for rent repayment orders (RROs). This is a major shift in policy, expanding the range of offences for which landlords can be held accountable.

Here, Paul Shamplina provides an update on the changes to RROs following the third reading of the Bill.

See our ultimate guide to rent repayment orders for more information on RROs.

Commitment to a review of selective licensing and HMOs

During the debate, the minister also explained the distinction between the role of selective licensing and the new Property Portal, committing to a review. He said:

“The portal will be a resource for local authorities and to help landlords understand their legal obligations, while selective licensing gives councils powers to license properties to address issues such as poor housing and crime.”

“There will be overlap with data. We don’t want to see selective licensing abolished but want to ensure the processes are streamlined – that’s why we’re committing to a review of selective licensing and HMOs.”

Property Portal alignment with ombudsman

The minister also committed to aligning the ombudsman with the Property Portal, to avoid landlords having to input their details more than once.

Watch this video with Paul Shamplina discussing the Property Portal.

See Hansard for the full Renters (Reform) Bill debate of 24 April 2024, and subscribe to LandlordZONE for regular updates and breaking news on the Bill and other private rented sector news and comment. We also recommend visiting the Independent Landlord Renters (Reform) Bill resources page, which Suzanne updates regularly.

Renters (Reform) Bill update: Second reading

Note: this section was updated on 31 October 2023 following the second reading of the Bill on 23 October 2023

After a significant delay, the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill), which was introduced to Parliament on 17 May 2023, took place on Monday 23 October 2023. The Bill will now progress to the committee stage – the third of five stages in the Commons - where a cross-party group of MPs will review the legislation in detail, propose new clauses and vote on any proposed changes.

In a statement following the second reading, the NRLA said:

“It is likely that we will witness significant alterations to the Bill during Committee Stage. The NRLA will provide evidence to ensure that changes proposed do not undermine landlord confidence further and that the Bill as amended supports responsible landlords.”

What changes are likely to be made to the Renters (Reform) Bill?

Introducing the second reading of his Bill in his statement to the House, the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, reiterated the Government's commitment to reform the private rented sector and the requirement to balance the needs of tenants and landlords.

A few points stood out from the second reading which make it clear that there will be a lot of changes to the Bill during this next stage. Here is a summary of the likely changes.

New grounds for possession for student landlords

Michael Gove acknowledged issues that would affect the student market with the Bill as it stands and committed to proposing a new ground for possession for student landlords. The current proposal to abolish Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) and introduce blanket two-month notice periods for tenants is a sticking point for landlords of student properties, who can currently issue tenancy agreements for a 12-month fixed term, to make sure the property remains tenanted for the whole calendar year, not just the academic year. A proposed ban on fixed-term tenancies could penalise students amid an already heightened rental crisis in many cities, so it is reassuring that this proposal will be reviewed.

Improvements to the courts

Gove also confirmed the need for improvements to the courts before Section 21 is abolished. However, he emphasised that the Government remains committed to the removal of Section 21, while strengthening provisions under Section 8. So, although it has been widely reported that the abolition of Section 21 is on hold, it is not yet clear how improvements will be measured or what the timing might be. What’s more, if Labour win the election, they could prioritise the abolition of Section 21 if the current government has not made any changes before the end of its term.

Decent Homes Standards, the Property Portal and the Property Ombudsman

The Government confirmed its commitment to the Decent Homes Standards, which was a glaring omission from the Bill, and something the Shadow Housing Secretary, Angela Rayner MP, called for during the second reading.

The Government also committed to introducing the Property Portal and the Property Ombudsman, the latter of which (potentially along with the relevant local council), would be responsible for making sure landlords do not discriminate against tenants with children or those who are in receipt of benefits.

Tenants with pets

Since the Tenant Fees Act 2019 came into force, with its cap on tenancy deposits of five weeks’ rent and a ban on tenant fees, many landlords in England have been put off accepting tenants with pets, as they have been worried about covering costs of any damage caused. The proposal in the Bill that tenants would have the right to request a pet and should be able to challenge a landlord’s decision to withhold consent for having a pet, had therefore worried some landlords. But the Government confirmed that the Act will be amended to allow for landlords to charge tenants for the cost of obtaining pet insurance. In addition, tenants will not have an automatic right to keep a pet in the property if the landlord initially refuses, as some had feared, unless ruled that the landlord has acted unreasonably.

Labour’s response to the second reading

Labour has previously made it clear that it will push for additional measures not currently included in the existing Bill, such as the expansion of rent repayment orders, amending possession grounds to protect tenants against ‘no fault’ evictions, and putting a stop to blanket bans on landlords accepting tenants with children or tenants who are in receipt of benefits.

We will update this article again following the committee stage. Read on for more background to the current proposals in the Renters (Reform) Bill.

Background to the Renters (Reform) Bill

Note: this section was published on 22 May 2023 following the introduction of the Bill to Parliament on 17 May 2023

For the past four years the Government has been promising a radical set of reforms for the private rented sector. The measures within the Renters (Reform) Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on 17 May 2023, could significantly alter the way landlords and letting agents in England operate rented homes. The Renters (Reform) Bill, represents perhaps the biggest shake-up to the private rented sector for over 30 years.

The Bill sets out the Government’s plans to ‘redress the balance’ between landlords and tenants by fundamentally reforming the private rented sector and levelling up housing quality.

Referring to the Bill on the day of its launch, Michael Gove said:

"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."

The changes being swept in by the Renters (Reform) Bill as it is now called (previously the Renters’ Reform Bill), should not be under-estimated. There is a way to go before the Bill becomes law, and it is likely that some of the measures within the Bill will be diluted or subject to amendments during its passage through Parliament, as noted in our updates to this article above, following the second reading on 23 October 2023 and the third reading on 24 April 2024. So it will be a while before it makes a difference to tenants and landlords. But it will nevertheless impact how evictions, tenancies, property standards, redress, property marketing and general admin operate for millions of landlords, agents and tenants.

We will keep you updated as the details emerge and encourage landlords to subscribe to LandlordZONE to make sure you’re up to speed with the breaking news and analysis.

To hear the experts’ initial verdict on whether the Renters (Reform) Bill will deliver what tenants need, listen to this bonus episode of The Property Cast with Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, and leading property expert, Kate Faulkner OBE. Watch this video excerpt to hear them explore whether reform of the private rented sector is the solution to solving the rental stock shortage.

To find out what elements of the current proposals landlords need to be concerned about and what’s really not going to make much difference in practice, read our article, 'Renters (Reform) Bill: should landlords be concerned?'

The Bill, once it gains royal assent from the King, has been much anticipated and hotly debated after the initial Fairer private rented sector white paper was published in 2022 (after the reforms were first revealed and consulted upon in April 2019).

“As suspected, the proposals do not contain any huge surprises and the direction of travel is broadly where most informed commentators believed it was going. Yes, there were some glaring omissions, for example there is absolutely no mention of Decent Home Standards, however I have been reassured that this will be introduced, but how and when is to be decided. There is a huge amount of work to do, and I hope and anticipate that the Government will press on with these plans as soon as possible after this becomes law and we can get on with the job!”

Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme

For landlords, the proposals within the Bill – which very much reflect the original White Paper – fall into ten key points.

To explore the ten key components of the Bill further, follow the links to the relevant pages below, within our in-depth look at the legislation, to see how it will affect you.

The Renters (Reform) Bill

1. What’s the Decent Homes Standard?

This is a minimum standard for rented properties that currently only applies to the social rented sector, which the Government is proposing to extend to the private rented sector.

2. What’s happening to evictions and Section 21?

The proposals are to abolish Section 21, meaning landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants without stating a specific reason.

3. How are rental tenancies changing?

ASTs will be abolished and all tenancies will move to periodic, with tenants able to give landlords two months’ notice at any time.

4. How will the new Ombudsman work?

The Government plans to introduce a new Ombudsman to settle disputes between landlords and tenants, with the aim of reducing the number that end up in court.

5. What’s the new Property Portal and how does it work?

This will be an information portal to help landlords understand their legal responsibilities, and will also serve as a database of private landlords and their properties, with registration mandatory.

6. Will landlords have to accept pets soon?

Tenants will have the right to request a pet and landlords will not be able to refuse without giving a good reason, but this doesn’t mean they can ‘demand’ pets.

7. Are ‘no DSS’ tenant blanket bans being outlawed?

Landlords and agents will be banned from operating a blanket policy of refusing tenants receiving Universal Credit or housing support and urged to base decisions on individual circumstances instead.

8. Will the court process for evictions be improved?

The Government is planning to prioritise the most pressing eviction cases and provide more support for mediation to reduce the number of cases going to court in the first place.

9. What are the new powers being given to local councils?

The key changes are that councils will be given greater power to investigate criminal landlords and a strengthened fine regime for serious offences.

10. Are tenants being given more power to challenge rent rises?  

Plans are to make the First-Tier Property Tribunal process easier for tenants to access, mainly via digitisation.

Keep up to date on the Renters (Reform) Bill

Our media partner, LandlordZONE, will be offering exclusive insights and breaking news as more details of the Bill emerge. Keep up to date with everything you need to know by subscribing to LandlordZONE, the UK’s largest online landlord property news website.

Articles on the Renters (Reform) Bill

Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, shares his thoughts and expertise on the reforms in the private rented sector on LandlordZONE. Here’s what he’s written so far:

- How the Renters (Reform) Bill heralds big changes for landlords

- Hit or miss – how will the long-awaited Renters’ Reform Bill be received?

- Will the looming 'pets in lets' rules prove pervasive?

- Are the tories still game for renting reform?

Videos on the Renters (Reform) Bill

We are constantly updating our library of video content – visit our Total Property YouTube channel to watch the latest videos on the Renters (Reform) Bill featuring private rented sector experts.

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