Renters Reform Bill - ALL CHANGE PLEASE!


The Renters (Reform) Bill was introduced to Parliament last month. The internet has been awash with supporters and critics of the envisioned legislation. Touted as a once in a generation shake up of the private rental market, there has been considerable focus on the changes proposed.

The key proposals included in the Bill are:

  1. New sheriff in Town – a new Property Ombudsman is to be established and all private landlords will need to sign up to the Ombudsman Scheme before marketing the rental property. The Property Ombudsman will enable tenants to raise legitimate complaints that the landlord has failed to address. The service is intended to be free for tenants
  2. Goodbye "no fault" evictions – "no fault" evictions are to be abolished. Instead, additional grounds for possession are available to the landlord such as when the rental property is being sold and to allow the landlord or a close family member to move into the rental property. Further, section 8 grounds are also being bolstered to include tenants with a track record for not paying rent on time
  3. Not all bark – local authorities can impose fines of up to £5,000 and the Property Ombudsman can impose fines of up to £25,000 depending on the nature of the breach
  4. Pets at Home – landlords cannot unreasonably refuse a request by a tenant to keep a pet but can ask that a tenant obtain pet insurance for any damage caused
  5. Mo' money mo' problems – rent review clauses are banned with increases only permissible via a mechanism similar to the existing section 13 process that can only take place once a year. Tenants can challenge rent increase if they think it is above market rate
  6. No end dates – fixed term tenancies will be a thing of the past and new tenancies will be periodic with a transition period for existing tenancies to eventually become periodic tenancies after a grace period. As before, landlords will not be able to serve a notice to quit before at least 6 months have lapsed, however, possession under section 8 will require at least 4 weeks' notice (previously 2 weeks) though landlord can rejoice as the courts may grant possession even if the arrears have been cleared at the hearing.

There is a long way to go before the Bill becomes legislation, the second reading doesn't even have a date yet. My crystal ball tells me that the Bill is unlikely to make it on to the statute books until at least 2024. However, before then, there are still important questions that need to be flushed out, not least:

  • what will be considered satisfactory proof from the Landlord to evidence the new grounds for possession?
  • whilst there are serious financial penalties for rogue landlords, more thought needs to be given on how policing landlords will work. Are exiting tenants to act as whistle-blowers?
  • how is the Property Ombudsman funded, is this just another cost to the landlord on top of the MEES regulations?
  • much more guidance is needed on how the tenant makes a challenge including what the costs will be to the landlord and how abuse of the system is to be discouraged; and
  • whilst purpose-built student accommodation, temporary accommodation, and supported housing are not caught by the changes, what impact will this have on the build to rent schemes or other privately rented student properties?

There are likely to be a few changes to the current form of the proposed legislation so watch this space.

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