Buy to Let

Softened Renters Reform Bill to be brought to Commons after Easter

Softened Renters Reform Bill to be brought to Commons after Easter
Shekina Tuahene
Written By:
Shekina Tuahene

The Renters Reform Bill will return to the House of Commons after Easter, with some changes to the original proposals, an MP has written.

Jacob Young, minister for Levelling Up, wrote to the Government to confirm this, saying the Renters Reform Bill “must strike the balance between delivering security for tenants and fairness for landlords”.

The bill currently allows tenants to end a tenancy with two months’ notice at any time, and this will be amended to stop tenants ending a tenancy in the first six months.

Young said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was considering exemptions to this, such as the death of a tenant, domestic abuse or “significant hazards” in a property.

He said the minimum six-month period meant landlords could rely on a letting period that would cover the costs of finding tenants and making repairs between tenancies.

This would balance the protection of landlords’ investments and making sure tenants can leave a tenancy after six months due to changing circumstances, Young wrote.

The revised bill also proposed an assessment of a county court possession system before scrapping Section 21.

In a whitepaper published before the bill was formally introduced, the Government said Section 21, otherwise known as no-fault evictions, would be abolished.

However, the Government was accused of going back on this promise after it was speculated that Tory MPs, who are also landlords, had been given drafts of changes to the bill.

Young said Section 21 would only be abolished once the courts are ready, adding that steps were being taken to improve courtrooms, including a £1.2m fund for court digitisation.

A Commons report asking the Chancellor to publish an assessment on barriers to possession and the readiness of court will also be required before Section 21 is scrapped, Young wrote.

The bill also proposed a review of local authority licensing schemes to make sure this is not duplicated by the newly introduced privately rented property portal. The privately rented property portal was proposed to replace the database of rogue landlords, and landlords will be legally required to register.

Closing loopholes

Young wrote that the bill would “close loopholes” and act as intended.

It will now allow landlords to evict tenants from any property let out to students, instead of only houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) as previously proposed. This is expected to ensure students leave a property at the end of the academic year.

“Our new amendment will further protect the student market and the supply of student housing,” Young wrote.

To protect the balance of shorter- and longer-term lets in local areas, the Government will bring forward an amendment to ensure landlords cannot turn properties into short-term lets after evicting tenants to move into or sell the property.

To prevent homelessness, the bill will bring forward an amendment to provide support from local authorities to tenants facing homelessness after being served a Section 8 notice.

This follows concerns raised that the removal of Section 21 would put tenants at risk.

‘Crack on’ with Renters Reform

Young said the changes to the bill had the support of landlord groups, which urged the Government to “crack on” with delivering the changes.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “All the rumour, speculation and off-the-record briefings about the future of the bill have caused a huge amount of concern and uncertainty for tenants and responsible landlords.

“The Government has a mandate to end Section 21 repossessions. Our focus has been on ensuring that the replacement system works, and is fair, to both tenants and responsible landlords. The changes being proposed would achieve this balance.”

He added: “Ministers now need to crack on to ensure the bill can proceed with the scrutiny it deserves.

“The lack of progress and uncertainty about the future is destabilising and damaging for those living and working in the private rented sector. It is time to bring this to an end.”

Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, said: “Propertymark is pleased to see amendments from the UK Government that help to address some of the key concerns of letting agents and strike a fairer balance of security for both landlords and tenants.

“We have worked hard on behalf of agents to highlight the unintended consequences of removing fixed-term tenancies, including, crucially, those for student housing. The UK Government’s commitment to review the implementation of the move to open-ended tenancies and establish an initial six-month tenancy period for tenants does provide more certainty for agents and their landlords.”

He added: “Propertymark has also long said that the key to the success of the Renters Reform Bill is a swift, efficient, and cost-effective court system, so it is also pleasing to see the UK Government commit to further assessments and measures to ensure the current inadequacies that exist in the court system are tackled before removing no-fault evictions.

“There is still a long way to go before the Renters Reform Bill becomes law, so Propertymark will continue to champion the role of property agents and iron out further unintended consequences to ensure the legislation works in practice for all.”

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