Renters Reform Bill finally introduced to Parliament
17th May 2023
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17th May 2023
This week’s Legal Update provides news on the long awaited Renters (Reform) Bill (“the Bill”), introduced to the House of Commons for its first reading yesterday, 17 May 2023, with the second reading scheduled for today, 18 May 2023.
It is a year since our last Legal Update on the then proposed Bill in May 2022, and this proposed reform of the residential lettings sector (which was announced in 2019 under Theresa May’s government) is making slow progress.
The Bill is intended to improve the lives of millions of tenants across England and level up housing quality. It aims to create a rental market that is fairer and more effective for tenants and landlords. It is also intended that it will provide to landlords who do things correctly the peace of mind that they can repossess their property when a tenant is behaving badly, or their circumstances change.
In June 2022, the government outlined its proposals for the Bill in its white paper, emphasising particular focus on:
Safe and decent homes, in particular applying the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector to give tenants safer, better value homes.
Increased security and more stability for tenants by replacing Section 21 “no fault” evictions with a modern tenancy system, delivering a simpler tenancy structure and reforming the grounds for possession.
Improved dispute resolution with the introduction of an Ombudsman so that disputes between tenants and landlords can be settled quickly and cheaply, without going to court.
A more efficient digital Court service.
The introduction of a new digital Property Portal to help landlords understand their legal requirements.
Stronger enforcement powers for local councils against private landlords and the introduction of a new requirement for councils to report on enforcement activity (to help target criminal landlords).
Providing a positive renting experience by making it illegal for landlords or letting agents to ban rentals to families with children or those in receipt of benefits. Landlords will not be able to stop families from viewing their properties.
Landlords will not be able to unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home and tenants will be able to challenge the landlord’s decision. Landlords should be reassured that they will be able to require pet insurance, so that any damage to their property is covered.
Support for responsible landlords by strengthening the grounds for possession where there is good reason for the landlord to take the property back.
How is it proposed the changes will be implemented?
Whilst it is still early days for the Bill, as it begins its passage through the House of Commons, before moving to the House of Lords and progressing through the final stages before Royal Assent is given, these are some of the more notable proposals at the current time:
1. Fixed term tenancies to be scrapped
There will be a simpler tenancy structure where all assured tenancies are periodic. The current initial 6 month term will be scrapped with all new and existing tenancies being periodic from day one. This will be dealt with in two stages:
Stage 1 - Within six months of the first implementation date, all new tenancies will be periodic and governed by the new rules.
Stage 2 - At least 12 months after the first implementation date, any previously agreed fixed terms will not apply.
Written tenancy agreements will be required.
2. Removal of Section 21 Notices - no fault evictions
There will be no more Section 21 Notices, landlords will only be able to use fault based grounds and “reasonable circumstances” as grounds for possession. It is believed that by removing the right to possession under Section 21 tenants will be empowered to challenge poor practice and unjustified rent increases, as well as encouraging landlords to engage and resolve issues.
3. Changes to Section 8 - New Grounds to be introduced
There will be a new mandatory ground for possession for repeated, serious arrears, where a tenant has been in at least two months’ rent arrears three times within the previous three years, regardless of the arrears balance on the date of the hearing.
There will be a new ground for landlords who wish to sell their property, and where landlords or their close family members need the property back to live in as their principle or only home (but not in the first 6 months of the tenancy).
There are changes to other grounds for possession proposed, including new grounds specifically for supported and temporary accommodation, which will be covered more fully in a later Legal Update.
4. Changes to Section 8 - Changes to length of Notice Periods
The notice period will change on the existing rent arrears eviction grounds, increasing from two weeks to four weeks.
When making a claim for possession using Section 8, only deposit protection will have to be demonstrated and not compliance with EPC and How to Rent Guide requirements (as is currently required with possession claims based on Section 21 - see here).
5. New Court Process
As part of the proposals, there are plans to introduce Court reforms that will target the areas which currently frustrate and hold up possession proceedings. These plans will be implemented by increasing County Court bailiff capacity, introducing a paperless process, strengthening mediation services and use of the Ombudsman will free up court time.
There will also be the option in certain cases to have trials in the First Tier Tribunal.
6. Tenants’ Notice Period
Tenants will have to provide two months’ notice when leaving a tenancy and they will be able to give notice at any point.
7. New Enforcement Measures available to local authorities
Local authorities will be given the power to issue fines via Civil Penalty Notices to landlords who harass or illegally evict tenants, or who do not meet the requirements of the new system.
Watch this space!
We will continue to track the progress of the Bill and will report further once more information becomes available. In the meantime, should you require any more information, please feel free to contact a member of the team on 01435 897297 or email@example.com.
This Legal Update describes the position in law as at the date of this article and care should be taken to note any subsequent amendments to the position as set out above. The Legal Update is provided free of charge for information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of KDL Law or by KDL Law as a whole.
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