Renters (Reform) Bill

October 31, 2023
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Renters (Reform) Bill

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

Last updated 31 October 2023

Renters (Reform) Bill update: Second reading

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. The committee stage is due to be completed by Tuesday 5 December.

It’s predicted that significant changes to the Bill are likely during its next stage as it progresses through Parliament.

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. Gove also committed to an accelerated timetable which, if all goes according to plan, should see the reading of the Bill completed by Christmas.

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 has 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 has now 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

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 update to this article above, following the second reading on 23 October. 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.

Latest articles on the Renters (Reform) Bill

Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, regularly 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 YouTube channel to watch the latest videos on the Renters (Reform) Bill featuring private rented sector experts.

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