The long-expected Renters (Reform) Bill was finally published on 17th May 2023, proposing the most significant reform of the private rented sector in England in over 30 years.
What does the Bill cover?
The Bill includes proposals to:
- Abolish Section 21 and move to a tenancy structure in which all tenancies are periodic.
- Reform possession grounds, including mandatory grounds for possession where a landlord intends to sell or in cases of repeated rent arrears.
- Create a new property Ombudsman to settle disputes and relieve pressure on the courts, which private landlords must join.
- Implement a digital Property Portal to better inform tenants and landlords of their rights and obligations and assist local councils in carrying out their enforcement duties.
- Establish a statutory right for tenants to request a pet.
Land Estates have been following the National Residential Landlords Association(NRLA) and itscampaign for positive change to the original proposals outlined in the Government’s White Paper ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’, published last year, and is pleased the Government has adopted NRLA proposals to:
- Focus action on tackling anti-social tenants and those not paying their rent.
- Improve the speed of court repossession hearings through better use of digital platforms.
- Ensure better reporting by councils on their enforcement action to root out rogue and criminal landlords.
However, more will still be required if landlords are to have confidence in the new system. The NRLA will continue to engage constructively with the Government during the passage of the Bill to try and ensure that:
- Student landlords can continue to offer homes at the start of each academic year.
- The details of the proposals work for landlords.
- Implementation of the reforms does not unduly disrupt landlords’ businesses; and
- The courts are resourced well enough to prevent delays.
What does it mean?
While we accept Section 21 repossessions will end, we are disappointed with the level of detail provided as to what will replace it. The Government statement assures landlords it will make it easier for landlords to repossess in cases of rent arrears and anti-social behaviour, however the ‘when’ and ‘how’ are conspicuous by their absence. The Government needs to ensure that responsible landlords have confidence that they can swiftly and effectively repossess properties where there are legitimate grounds.
Without retaining landlord confidence, the Bill will only worsen the supply crisis tenants face today.
To support landlords, the NRLA will also continue to call on the Government to develop a comprehensive plan to improve the speed and efficiency with which the courts process possession claims. While it is a positive development that the Government accepted NRLA calls to digitise cases, the court system also requires additional staff to meet the needs of these reforms.
In addition, it is crucial that the Government addresses the significant concerns of landlords regarding the introduction of open-ended tenancies for students. The inability to plan around the academic year raises uncertainty and may lead to a shortage of available rental properties for students. It is essential that the Government takes these concerns seriously and addresses them with suitable solutions.
We would like to assure members that we will continue to work with the Government, MPs, and Peers to ensure that the Bill is workable and fair for both responsible landlords and tenants alike.
What happens next?
For now, nothing will change. In the coming months, the contents of the Bill will be subject to debate in the House of Commons and House of Lords. During these debates, clauses may be added, amended, or removed. To provide a better understanding of the process, the NRLAhave produced a short article outlining the likely route the Bill will take before it receives Royal Assent.
It is likely to be 18 months before any of these reforms come into effect, and some elements of the Bill will take much longer to implement.
If we manage your property, don’t worry Land Estates are fully prepared for the changes and will keep you updated via email of any further updates.
If you manage your own property and would like some advice, please feel free to call me and I will be happy to have a chat with you.