Renters' Reform Bill update
Posted on 14th April 2021
A government consultation, launched back in July 2019, proposed significant changes for the private rental sector.
If the Renters’ Reform Bill goes ahead landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants using section 21 of the Housing Act and the grounds on which landlords can regain possession of a property will be revised.
The government also proposes strengthening the eviction process, to make it faster and easier for landlords to regain their property if they want to sell it or move into it themselves.
Although the consultation closed in October 2019 no further steps have been taken so far. There is concern and uncertainty amongst landlords about what will happen next.
Recently the (now former) junior housing minister, Kelly Tolhurst, said in the House of Commons that the government remained committed to enhancing renters’ security by abolishing no-fault evictions. Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher MP, has said that the Bill will be brought forward when 'there is a sensible and stable economic and social terrain' after coronavirus measures are lifted.
The proposals also included the idea of a new portable ‘lifetime deposit’ so that tenants won’t have to save for a new deposit every time they move. How this would work in practice isn’t clear, but one option might be to introduce a tenants’ ISA to support their deposit needs.
It has also been suggested that the database of rogue landlords and property agents should be extended and that more people should be able to access it. Greater powers to improve standards in the private rented sector were also proposed, along with options to help tenants to make informed choices about who they rent from. Certainly steps to improve professionalism and to reduce risks in the sector would be welcome.
The new requirement for all private rental properties to have an electrical safety inspection every five years is evidence of the intention to give tenants a right to redress if their home isn’t safe and habitable.
Possession of a rental property
At the heart of the reforms is the process needed for landlords to take possession of a rental property. For both landlords and tenants it will be essential that this is comprehensive and clear so that everyone understands what will happen and how.
Ensuring that the process can’t be abused by problem tenants or rogue landlords is, of course, a major concern. However, the ideal outcome will be a set of reforms that can be used effectively and fairly. The alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process should be strengthened to make the courts an option of last resort for both landlords and tenants.
If problems do end in court action then the presumption should be that all alternative options for resolution have been exhausted. In this case the process should be simple, fast, and unambiguous. Once a decision is reached, enforcement should be a straightforward process.
There could be a case for a specialist housing court or tribunal, possibly holding hearings online, which could ease pressure on the existing court system and improve outcomes.
I would be very interested to hear the views of landlords and tenants on these proposals, so please get in touch.
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