The government has released the Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper setting out plans for the upcoming Renters Reform Bill.
The White Paper had not been expected until later this year, and so the quick release caught many in the industry flat-footed. However, agents and landlords welcomed the chance to scrutinise the reforms, first laid out in the Queen’s Speech in May, in more detail – although industry group Propertymark has already warned that as it stands, some measures could create an imbalance between landlords and tenants.
While the timing of the White Paper came as a surprise, a lot of its content won’t. As expected, the government is scrapping Section 21 “no fault” evictions. Existing Assured Shorthold Tenancies will be converted into new periodic tenancies that can be ended by the tenant at two months’ notice, or by the landlord when they have grounds for possession. The government also plans to allow landlords to repossess properties efficiently when they need to sell, in cases of antisocial behaviour or when the tenant has fallen into "repeated, serious arrears" regardless of their current arrears balance, and a new Private Renters’ Ombudsman will also be set up to resolve landlord-tenant disputes without the need to go to court.
Additionally, the Decent Homes Standard will be extended to the private rented sector. The set of rules, which currently only applies to social housing, requires landlords to keep their properties in a reasonable state of repair and free of any Category 1 hazards (those likely to cause serious injury or death). Landlords whose homes do not meet the Decent Homes Standard may have to repay rent to tenants.
Landlords and agents will be more restricted in when and how they can increase rent. The notice period for rent increases in periodic tenancies is set to be doubled from one month to two months. Tenants will also get more powers to challenge rent increases, and “arbitrary” rent review clauses in tenancy agreements will be banned.
In another change that is likely to be controversial, tenants are also to be given stronger rights to keep pets in privately rented homes. Landlords will only be able to refuse permission to keep a pet if they have good reason, and tenants will be able to appeal. However, landlords will be allowed to require tenants to hold pet damage insurance.
A Renter’s Reform Bill has been promised since 2019, and landlords, agents and tenants will be glad to have more clarity about its contents at last. However, the proposals still have to go through several rounds of consultation and debate before they become law. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has said that the Renters Reform Bill will be introduced before next March.
The full White Paper is available online.
Other tenant headlines
Dramatic rise in adults returning to live with parents – Landlord Today
820,000 private rented households facing gap between benefits and rent – LandlordZONE
Accommodating pets now most common reason for tenants moving – Property Industry Eye