by: Housing Today
Gove to publish long delayed rental reform bill which will also force rented houses to meet Decent Homes standard
The right of landlords to evict tenants without any reason is finally to be abolished under a much-delayed legislation set to be published today. However, the government plans to use the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill to replace so-called Section 21 “no-fault” evictions with new rights for landlords to reclaim properties if the tenant is in serious arrears or to sell the home or take occupation.
The bill, to be introduced to Parliament today, is also set to require privately rented homes to meet the decent homes standard, as homes in the social housing sector do, though it is unclear how improvements will be funded, or what the immediate sanction will be where landlords don’t comply. Nearly a quarter of England’s 4.3 million privately rented homes currently fail to meet the government’s decency standard–more than a million homes. The bill also aims to introduce a new Ombudsman to provide a quicker and cheaper route to resolve disputes, while powers to evict anti-social tenants will be “strengthened”, according to the government.
Housing campaigners have long called for evictions under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act to be abolished, arguing that landlords’ right to evict tenants without any grounds leaves renting families vulnerable to exploitation and without any housing security. The government first promised to change the law in 2019, and the pledge was contained in Boris Johnson's election-winning manifesto that year, but the proposal has been repeatedly delayed. However, the reforms come amid widespread reports that the government has dropped plans to abolish leasehold tenure, which was to have been the other major plank of its housing reform agenda.
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. “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.”
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the bill will also give tenants the right to request housing a pet in their home, with the landlord bound to consider the request, and not able to unreasonably refuse it. Landlords won’t be able to have blanket bans on accepting tenants in receipt of benefits or tenants with children. Dan Wilson Craw, acting director, Generation Rent, said the bill was a “huge opportunity” to improve the lives of the 11 million people who now rent from private landlords in England. Arbitrary Section 21 evictions make it impossible for tenants to put down roots and confidently report problems about their homes.
“Abolishing them will take away much of the stress of renting and improve communication and trust between tenants and landlords. The new Property Portal and Ombudsman have the potential to make it much harder for criminal landlords to operate.”
Mary-Anne Bowring, managing director of Ringley Group, struck a “good balance” between strengthening rights for tenants while giving landlords enough “downside protection”, and that this would promote the growth of the build-to-rent sector.
“Key to making the private rental market work for consumers is competition, and that means welcoming the creation of purpose-built, professionally managed rental housing like what exists in much of America and Europe, which will help drive up standards by forcing buy-to-let landlords to up their game,” she said.
Lawyer Abtin Yeganeh, the senior associate at Lawrence Stephens, said the Bill will be welcomed by the majority of UK tenants given the uncertainty over their occupation created by ‘no-fault evictions’, adding this was “particularly concerning for families with young children”.However, he said the rules had provided landlords with security. “The abolishment of no-fault evictions may, therefore, be a cause for concern for landlords,” he said. “However, the Bill will reform the grounds of possession under Ground 8 of the Housing Act 1988. New grounds will be introduced to address repeated serious arrears, and situations where possession is required to allow the landlord to sell a property or for the landlord and/or family members to occupy the property.
“The Renters’ Reform Bill should strike a balance between the rights of tenants and security for landlords.”
Graham Cox, founder of Bristol-based broker, SelfEmployedMortgageHub.com said the reforms were largely welcome but would drive small landlords out of the market in favor of the institutionally-backed private rented sector. He said: “For too long, a minority of unscrupulous landlords have enjoyed all the benefits of renting out property without any of the responsibility. But the Government is only introducing the changes now because of what they have planned for us, namely build to rent on a massive scale.”
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