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Renters’ reform

Mattie Green examines the key proposals in the “A Fairer Private Rented Sector” White Paper.

On 16 June 2022, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities released its White Paper, “A Fairer Private Rented Sector”, setting out significant proposals to reform the privately rented sector. The changes are said to be part of “the biggest shake up of the private rented sector in 30 years”.

Key proposals

The key proposals, which will be of interest to both landlords and tenants, include the following:

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1. Legislation will be introduced requiring landlords to comply with a legally binding Decent Homes Standard

2. Section 21 “no fault” evictions will be abolished

Rather than tenants entering into an assured tenancy or assured shorthold tenancy, the proposals state that there will be a single system of periodic tenancies.

A tenancy will only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession.

The proposals say that this will empower tenants to challenge poor practice and reduce costs associated with unexpected moves.

The new system will be implemented in two stages, and at least six months’ notice will be provided before the first implementation date, from which all new tenancies will be periodic and governed by the new rules. All existing tenancies will transition to the new system from the second implementation date. At least 12 months will be allowed between the first and second implementation date.

3. New grounds for possession will be introduced

A new ground will be introduced for landlords who wish to sell their property and allow landlords and their close family members to move into a rental property. However, these grounds will not be permitted during the first six months of the tenancy.

A new mandatory ground for repeated serious arrears will also be introduced. The new mandatory ground will be made out where a tenant has been in at least two months’ rent arrears three times within the previous three years, regardless of the arrears at the date of the hearing.

The notice period for the existing rent arrears eviction ground will be increased to four weeks.

The notice period for criminal behaviour or serious antisocial behaviour will be lowered, but the proposals do not set out the new notice period.

4. Rent increases will only be allowed once per year, the minimum notice period for increasing rent will change to two months and rent review clauses will no longer be permitted

Where a rent increase is referred to the First-tier Tribunal, the tribunal will not be permitted to increase the rent beyond the amount the landlord initially requested when they proposed the rent increase.

5. A new Ombudsman will be introduced covering all private landlords

Membership of the Ombudsman scheme will be compulsory. The Ombudsman will have power to require landlords to issue an apology, provide information, take remedial action and/or pay compensation of up to £25,000.

6. A new Property Portal will be introduced which will have information for tenants, landlord and local councils

The proposals also state that landlords will be required to provide a written tenancy agreement setting out basic information about the tenancy and the parties’ responsibilities.

7. Additional legislation will be introduced aimed at promoting a positive renting experience

Landlords and agents will not be allowed to have a blanket ban on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.

Tenants will have the right to request a pet in their property, which landlords must consider and must not unreasonably refuse. Pet insurance will become a permitted payment under the Tenant Fees Act 2019, enabling landlords to require pet insurance to cover any damage to property.

What’s next?

The Renters’ Reform Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech will provide the legislative basis for the reforms outlined in the White Paper. It is expected that the Renters Reform Bill will be brought forward in this Parliamentary session. However, the exact timeline for the implementation of the reforms is not yet known.

Mattie Green is a barrister at Tanfield Chambers.

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