Last month the UK Government set out its legislative programme for this parliamentary session in the traditional Queen’s Speech. Amongst the announcements was the Government’s plan to introduce a new Renters Reform Bill (the “Bill”) this year, which will have wide ranging implications for landlords and tenants alike.
The Government has long wanted to abolish the so-called ‘no fault’ eviction provided for by section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and it appears that the Government will follow through on this pledge by March 2023. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has also released a White Paper entitled “A Fairer Private Rented Sector” (the “White Paper”), which sets out proposals to:
- Abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and reform the grounds for possession to make sure that landlords have effective means to gain possession of their property where necessary. This includes introducing a new ground for possession for repeated serious rental arrears, so that eviction is mandatory where a tenant has been in at least two months’ rent arrears, three times within the previous three years, regardless of the arrears balance at the hearing;
- Introduce a simpler, more secure tenancy structure. This will be done by moving all tenants who would previously have had an assured shorthold tenancy onto a single system of periodic tenancies which will allow tenants to leave poor quality homes without remaining liable for rent and for tenants to be evicted only in reasonable circumstances that will be specified in the legislation;
- Strengthen tenants’ ability to hold landlords to account and introduce a new single Ombudsman that all private landlords must join;
- Work with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (“HMCTS”) to target the areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings, and improve mediation and alternative dispute resolution methods;
- Only allow rental increases once per year, end the use of rent review clauses, and improve tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases through the First Tier Tribunal;
- Make it illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits (so called ‘No DSS’ bans); and
- Give tenants the right to request that they can have a pet in their property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse.
The Bill has been called the “biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”. However, the reaction to the White Paper has so far been mixed. Whilst the White Paper has been welcomed by many, including the Citizens Advice Bureau, housing charities, and campaigners, some organisations are nervous that this could increase the number of lengthy disagreements between investors and tenants at court. Amongst these organisations is the British Property Federation, which stated that it has significant concerns about the lack of clarity surrounding any proposed court reforms ahead of the Bill being introduced.
Unfortunately for both tenants and landlords, the Government is yet to commit to a specific timetable for introducing the Bill, and clarity is awaited. In the meantime Edwin Coe continues to act for both landlords and tenants who find themselves at risk of a potential dispute.
Our Property and Trusts Litigation team has considerable experience of handling complex tenancy disputes and possession proceedings and is monitoring the legislative programme closely. Should you have any questions about what these changes may mean for you or require assistance in connection with tenancy disputes and possession proceedings, please contact our partner Shams Rahman or any member of the Edwin Coe Property Litigation team.
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Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.
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