What is the Renters’ Reform Bill and What Does it Mean For You?
In 2019, the government announced plans for a Renters’ Reform Bill that would change the way tenancies work in the UK. It appeared in the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto and also made it into the Queen’s Speech at the opening of parliament.
Indeed, it looked to be imminent in February 2021, when then-junior housing minister Kelly Tolhurst told the House of Commons, “the government is committed to enhancing renters’ security by abolishing no-fault evictions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, our collective efforts have been focused on protecting people during the outbreak. This has included introducing longer notice periods and preventing evictions at the height of the pandemic on public health grounds. We will introduce a renters’ reform Bill very soon.”
Then everything went quiet. The Renters’ Reform Bill is still expected to come into action, but not until much later on, this year at the earliest. But, landlords and letting agents shouldn’t rest on their laurels. This article explains what we can expect from the Renters’ Reform Bill and what you should expect in the future.
What is the Renters’ Reform Bill All About?
There are a few key elements expected to appear in the Renters’ Reform Bill. They are:
The bill will ban Section 21 evictions. These ‘no fault’ evictions allow landlords to repossess their properties at the end of a fixed-term tenancy with a minimum of two months’ notice. Section 8 evictions, which allow repossession in cases of unpaid rent, antisocial behaviour, damage to the property and similar situations, will remain. There may also be a review and adjustment in terms of what are acceptable grounds for possession.
It will extend and widen access to the rogue landlord and letting agent database.
Another aim is to speed up and improve the process for landlord possessions.
The government wants to create a lifetime deposit that transfers between properties and means that a tenant doesn’t need to save for a new deposit before receiving their previous one back each time they move house.
Reaction to the Renters’ Reform Bill Plans
Housing charity Shelter embraced the news of the bill and is campaigning for it to prioritise an end to what it calls “unfair evictions” as well as the creation of the rogue landlord database. Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) cautiously welcomed what he called “a massive opportunity to tidy up some of the problematic areas that the sector has,” but insisted that the bill needed to meet three main objectives:
It should be clear on exactly which reasons landlords can give to repossess their properties. This means allowing them to regain access when there has been any kind of fault on behalf of the tenant or when the landlord needs to make a business decision, such as selling the property, performing major renovations, or moving back in.
There should be a dedicated housing court, presided over by trained, specialist judges to ensure both landlords and tenants receive consistent and fair treatment. The NRLA also wants a conciliation service to try and avoid cases going to court. It states that if tenants renege on outcomes of this service, the landlord should have their case fast-tracked through the court. If the landlord doesn’t fulfill their responsibilities from the service, they should be prevented from issuing another possession order for six months.
The lifetime deposits scheme should not discourage landlords from making claims if they have legitimate reasons to do so.
When is the Renters’ Reform Bill Likely to Happen?
Ben Beadle of the NRLA says that he has discussed the matter with housing minister Christopher Pincher, who told him: “the social and economic terrain needs to be a stable one before this comes.” Beadle continues, “I don’t know that we’re going to see social and economic stability at any time soon, so I think probably what we’ll be looking at is a bridge between what we have now to the Renters Reform Bill, which my best guess is probably much, much later in this year. But we will see.”
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