With parliament's summer recess rapidly approaching, the upcoming parliamentary schedule does not have room for the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill, when MPs will be able to make amendments and ask questions to Housing Minister Rachel Maclean MP.
While the Bill has not returned to the Commons for a second reading, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has seized the opportunity to question Housing Minister Rachel Maclean and her team from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) on the details of the Bill. The committee asked questions about key policies, such as extending the Decent Homes Standards to the PRS and outlawing discrimination against tenants with children or receiving benefits, which were missing from the Bill despite being included in the government's official guidance.
The expectation is that these policies will be added as amendments during the second reading, but there is concern from the industry that it will not leave enough time for proper parliamentary scrutiny of these important policies.
Bill’s provisions already filtering through
Meanwhile, there has been some movement from the government on some aspects of the Bill. Originally, a tenant that challenged a Section 13 rent increase in court could either be ordered to pay the new rent or get it decreased, whereas tenants could now face the prospect of the courts further increasing the rent. This could help put off spurious challenges and reduce the potential number of court cases.
Also, under questioning from the committee, the DLUHC team gave new details on the proposed Ombudsman, including that it would operate as a non-profit and that they had not ruled out a combined agent/tenant/landlord redress scheme.
Agents need their say
“A lot of the important details are still up in the air,” says Neil Cobbold, Managing Director, PayProp UK, “And with the Bill not getting its second reading until at least September, this gives agents the summer to get organised and share their views with their MPs.”
As part of PayProp’s push to promote the views of lettings professionals as the government reforms the industry, the company hosted an informal roundtable discussion with Andrew Lewer MP, member of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, and senior representatives from Belvoir, Dexters, Foxtons, Knight Frank, Leaders Romans Group, LSL Property Services, Savills, and The Property Franchise Group.
PayProp is also asking for the views of all letting agents in their survey, Life after the Renters (Reform) Bill, promising to present the results to the government, MPs and peers, to highlight the issues letting agents feel this Bill will create.
“We’ve already seen the government make changes based on feedback from the industry, so the more voices we have, the better the chance lettings professionals will be consulted on this bill and future changes to the industry,” concludes Cobbold.