Updates on the Renters Reform Bill: What You Need to Know
Heralded in a blaze of publicity as the government’s touchstone effort to clean up the private rented sector, the Renters Reform Bill seems lost in a sea of procedural problems.
The bill was introduced to MPs four months ago and had a speedy first reading, but is not scheduled to surface in this week’s parliamentary business.
Next week is a short week for Parliament. Only two days are available for debates. MPs and interested observers must wait until Thursday (September 14) to see If the Renters Reform Bill is allocated a slot.
If not, MPs are away on their party conference jollies for a few weeks before returning to Westminster on October 16.
The bill has another chance for a second reading in the debating time set aside before the King’s Speech on November 7.
Time’s running out for a second reading.
Should the bill fail to gain a second reading before the King’s Speech, ministers must reintroduce the bill to start the entire process again.
Ministers and officials have repeatedly promised the bill a fast passage, starting with inclusion in the Queen’s Speech two years ago, which laid out the timetable for legislation planned for the current session of Parliament.
The timetable included a promised slot for the Renters Reform Bill that failed to materialise.
But rumours of squabbling between backbenchers and ministers have slowed the bill’s progress. Many MPS are concerned that the bill is too far in favour of tenants.
If the Renters Reform Bill continues to struggle to pass through Westminster, many doubt the bill will become law before the next General Election.
The next General Election is due on or before January 2025, with many predicting a vote in May 2024.
Why is the law changing?
The government alleges the current assured shorthold tenancy framework lends little security to tenants, with many feeling unable to enforce their rights over repairs and rent rises without the threat of eviction.
Ministers are also concerned about the scope of no-fault Section 21 evictions and argue they increase homelessness. In contrast, landlords argue that the power avoids a lengthy and uncertain court process when repossessing a property.
What’s in the Renters Reform Bill?
The Renters Reform Bill comes with several significant legal changes for private landlords and tenants in England:
- Replacing assured shorthold tenancies with rolling, open-ended tenancies, which means no more fixed-term arrangements
- Abolishing Section 21 evictions while reworking repossession rights for landlords
- Introducing a process for updating rents once a year with an appeal process for tenants to take to a property tribunal if the rise is unfair
- A housing ombudsman to handle complaints from tenants
- Opening an online property portal as a central hub for landlords and tenants to find out about housing law and their rights
- Changing the law to let tenants keep pets by default
Other proposals to update landlord\tenant law are on the way outside the Renters Reform Bill.
The new rules include a statutory decent homes standard, making bans on renting to tenants on benefits or with children illegal and giving councils more power to enforce housing law.
Reaction to the bill’s measures
The private rental market is sharply divided about the impact of the bill.
On one side are landlords facing up on the other against tenants, councils and housing charities.
It’s fair to say neither side is against reform, providing some of the strictest measures, like reworking Section 21 evictions, to meet the needs of both sides. Landlords are wary that setting no repossession conditions could be costly if they want to sell or take the property off the letting market. Tenants and their supporters want repossession conditions that give them more home security.
However, landlords are concerned about the costs of reform after facing several years of tax and rule changes, leaving many with reduced profits.
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A tenancy of someone's home, starting on or after 28 February 1997, will in most cases be an assured shorthold tenancy. Take advice early if there are any doubts about what type of tenancy is being terminated. The procedures for ending a tenancy are different, depending on the type of tenancy.