The Renters (Reform) Bill has been introduced to Parliament, including proposals to abolish section 21 and Assured Shorthold Tenancies, as well as to introduce a property portal and an ombudsman that landlords will have to join.
The changes will take a little while to come into effect, so there is still time to prepare. The bill has started its journey through the Houses of Commons and Lords to eventually receive Royal Assent – and it may face amendments along the way.
We will be here to help you through these changes as and when they happen. In the meantime, you’ll find an overview below of the main proposals as it stands.
When will any Renters (Reform) Bill changes come into play?
The bill will need to pass through a lengthy parliamentary process before becoming law, with amendments likely.
Some reforms outlined in the bill will not be actioned on the day the bill becomes law. For example, the government has committed to introducing a new ombudsman “as soon as possible after royal assent,” but does not provide specific timescales.
Similarly, some reforms will take part over a longer period of time – such as moving all tenancies from fixed term to periodic. This will be in two stages and will take at least 18 months.
1. Section 21 “no fault” evictions to be abolished
The bill confirms plans to abolish section 21 evictions. In place of section 21, the bill outlines proposals to strengthen section 8. This allows a landlord to end a tenancy agreement early if they have a legal reason to do so. A new ground for repeated rent arrears will be introduced. There will also be a new ground that means landlords can apply section 8 to a tenancy if they wish to sell a property, or if they wish to allow their close family members to move into their rental property. The ground for eviction due to antisocial behaviour will also be amended so that notice can be served immediately.
2. A move to a single system of periodic tenancies
The bill confirms the government’s ambition to simplify existing tenancy structures, by moving all Assured Shorthold Tenancies onto a single system of periodic tenancies. The proposals outline that tenants would then need to provide two months’ notice when leaving a tenancy, to “ensure landlords can recoup the costs of finding a tenant and avoid lengthy void periods”. Purpose-built student accommodation, temporary accommodation, and supported housing aren’t included in the tenancy reform proposals as introduced.
3. Notice periods for rent increases to be doubled
Rent increases will be limited to once per year and the minimum notice landlords must provide of any change in rent will be increased to two months. The A Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper also outlined plans to end the use of rent review clauses. Tenants will be able to challenge any rent increases that they feel are unjustified through the first-tier tribunal.
4. Tenants will get more rights to keep pets
The Renters (Reform) Bill outlines that tenants will be able to request permission to keep a pet in their home and that landlords cannot “unreasonably withhold consent”. Landlords must accept or refuse consent within 42 days. This can be extended by a week if a landlord needs further information. To help protect the property, tenants must provide in writing confirmation that they have insurance for their pet, or that they are willing to pay the landlord reasonable costs to cover the landlord’s insurance in case of pet damage. The Tenant Fees Act would be amended to allow the latter payment.
5. An ombudsman will cover all private landlords
A government-approved ombudsman will be created, covering all private landlords who rent out properties in England – regardless of whether they use a letting agent. Former or current tenants will be able to use this to lodge a complaint against a landlord. The ombudsman would have powers to compel landlords to issue an apology, provide information, take remedial action, and/or pay compensation of up to £25,000. Repeat or serious offenders may be liable for a Banning Order.
6. A new property portal
A new digital property portal will be introduced to “provide a single ‘front door’ to help landlords understand and demonstrate compliance with their legal requirements”. The government shares that the portal will “support good landlords to demonstrate regulatory compliance and to attract prospective tenants”. The portal needs to be tested before it’s launched. The exact information that landlords will need to share is yet to be confirmed.
Although it wasn’t included in the bill itself, the government has committed to applying the Decent Homes Standard to the Private Rented Sector. It will also outlaw bans on renting to tenants with children or those on benefits.