The white paper, “A Fairer Private Rented Sector” has been sparking discussions across England since it was published in June 2022. The proposed amendments are said to be moving The Housing Act 1988 into the 21st century. Will shaking up a power balance between landlords and tenants simply open up the civil justice system to mass claims and inconsistent judgements? As the highly anticipated Renters’ Reform Bill reached its 2nd reading stage in the House of Commons on 23 October 2023, it seems that we will have longer to wait until we come close to finding out!
Abolishment of Section 21/Revised Section 8 Grounds
There are various key changes being proposed in the Renters Reform Bill. One of the most prominent changes remains after the second reading; the abolishment of the ‘section 21’ (or “no fault”) eviction notice. If the bill passes as drawn, this will prevent a private landlord from repossessing their property on a ‘no-fault’ basis providing a layer of security for tenants. This, in turn, should help enable tenants to enforce their rights, particularly in relation to repairs and to challenge unreasonable rent increases without fear of eviction. Equally the proposed abolition of the “no fault” eviction means landlords should be afforded stronger grounds to regain possession of their property in cases where their tenant exhibits anti-social behaviour or is repeatedly in rent arrears as landlords would be required to satisfy one of the revised/new Section 8 grounds in Schedule 2 of The Housing Act 1988 if the Bill passes as drawn.
The other changes proposed by the Renters Reform Bill relate to:
- A new ‘Decent Homes Standard’
- Ending Tenancies
- New Ombudsman
- Rent Review
- Tenants having pets
- Rental portal
- Offences and financial penalties.
A brief summary of some of these changes can be explored on our previous blog on the matter, whilst others are explored below:
Right for Tenants to request consent for a pet
The new bill “requires landlords not to unreasonably withhold consent” when asked for permission for pets in the property. As currently drafted, there is a grey area as to what is deemed reasonable or not and ultimately opens the decision up for the scrutiny of the Court until further or more intricate guidance is enforced.
Privately Rented Property Portal
The government is proposing a new database of dwellings and landlords in the Private Rented Sector. The suggestion is that it will be compulsory for each landlord to submit an active entry onto the portal, before the property is let.
The Portal aims to provide relevant guidance and give a better understanding of landlord obligations which in turn, should enhance the service provided to tenants. The proposal is that landlords will be responsible for paying for the running of the Portal and that landlords and letting agents keep the records accurate and up to date. This will increase transparency for the tenants and ensure that they too, have the guidance available to understand and exercise their rights and adhere to their obligations. The portal will also be accessible by local authorities in a bid to easily identify non-compliant or poor quality properties being let in the private sector, and identify responsible landlords.
New Offences and financial penalties
In line with rolling out the Portal, guidance provides that new offences will be introduced relating to the misconduct or misuse of the database. There will be legal repercussions if a landlord was to knowingly or recklessly provide false or misleading information.
When will these changes happen?
Although many of us were anticipating the bill receiving Royal Assent by early October 2023, the delay in the second reading coincides with the Government’s statement that the abolition of Section 21 would be stayed until “sufficient progress has been made to improve the Courts”. With the growing need to address the inefficiency and lack of resources in the Civil Courts, it is not likely that significant changes will be impeded until drastic Court Reform has been achieved.
Whilst there is no accurate timeline for reform yet, given the progress made by the Courts in response to the global pandemic (i.e. the shift to remote hearings, and increase in e-filing), we can remain hopeful and optimistic that Court reform and efficiency may be achievable. Although the timing is uncertain, it is important that we are prepared for and knowledgeable about the proposed changes to the Housing Act 1988 to ensure a compliant and smooth shift to new processes when the Bill receives Royal Assent.
If you are a private landlord or tenant and require some advice on any of the above or would like to commence possession proceedings, our team would be more than happy to help. Please contact Shivani Daudia on email@example.com or 01788 557622.