What's Next for Renters (Reform) Bill: October 2023

Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove has won a protracted fight with Tory backbenchers over the fate of the long-awaited Renters (Reform) Bill.

Gove’s prize legislation has stuttered through Parliament, but the minister seems to have finally overcome protests from Tories who felt the Bill comes down too heavily on landlords.

The Bill is due for a second reading on Monday (October 23, 2023).

A carry-over motion will take the Bill into the next Parliamentary session, which starts with the King’s Speech on November 7.

The timing should allow the government to see the Bill safely through Parliament to become law before the next General Election.

Shake-up for private renters

The Renters (Reform) Bill has had a chequered history since former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government first proposed a shake-up of the private letting sector four years ago.

Then, the Conservatives included the Bill in their election manifesto to give a fairer deal to renters.

Gove finally introduced the Bill to MPs in May.

The acceleration of the Bill through Parliament follows Gove telling the Tory Conference that “a thriving rental sector is vital to ensuring an effective housing market".

The Bill includes several controversial clauses:

  • Abolishing Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions
  • Applying the Decent Homes Standard to private rented homes for the first time
  • Stopping landlords from placing blanket bans against tenants on benefits or with children
  • Banning revenge evictions against tenants who complain about the state of their homes
  • Giving tenants the right to keep pets
  • Developing a national landlord database for England
  • Introducing a Private Rented Sector Ombudsman
  • Setting up a Private Rented Property Portal to help landlords comply with their legal obligations towards tenants

The Bill also scraps fixed-term assured tenancy agreements in favour of rolling rental contracts.

Bill rejuvenated by Gove

The rejuvenation of the Rental (Reform) Bill follows Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner pledging to Labour Party conference delegates in Liverpool that the party would ‘finish the job’ and adopt a renters’ charter.

The charter broadly follows the changes proposed in the Renters (Reform) Bill.

Rayner said: “Rents skyrocketing. Mortgages soaring. Good wages and protections aren’t enough if every penny goes on keeping a roof over your head or if you live in damp, cramped housing – or have no home.

“Safe, secure, affordable housing is no longer the foundation on which people can rely. Too many are paying unaffordable private rents or living the nightmare of a home wrapped in flammable cladding.”

Gove’s announcement came when 30 housing charities and campaigners delivered an open letter criticising the Bill’s lack of progress.

Housing charity Shelter, which led the protest, claims a renter faces a Section 21 eviction every three minutes in England.

Renters (Reform) Bill FAQ

What is the Decent Homes Standard?

The Decent Homes Standard lists the minimum health and safety requirements homes let by social landlords must reach. The Renters (Reform) Bill will apply the standard to private rented homes for the first time.

The standard demands a home is in a reasonable state of repair, has modern facilities and services and is well-insulated.

When will the Renters (Reform) Bill become law?

The Bill is unlikely to clear Parliament before the spring at the earliest. If the Bill receives Royal Assent, it will probably become law before January 2025, the latest date Prime Minister Rishi Sunak can call for a vote.

Does the Renters (Reform) Bill cover the entire UK?

The Bill covers England - Scotland and Wales make their laws to cover the private rented sector.

Why are the Tories and Labour so eager for rent reform?

Both political parties see the private rented sector as a battleground for votes in the next General Election.  The sector covers over 4.2 million homes and several million voting tenants.

When will a property ombudsman start work?

The Renters (Reform) Bill will require private landlords to join a redress scheme that independently handles tenant complaints. The new appointment of a property ombudsman will manage this.

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