Painting of Houses Of Parliament and Big Ben

Category: government and politics

A leaked letter by Housing Minister Jacob Young, reveals the government is making a series of changes to the Renters Reform Bill, in the reporting stage of its progress through Parliament.

The amendments, outlined in a letter to Conservative MPs, include several significant changes. Some believe they will address the bias against landlords, while others believe they will detract from the original purpose of the Bill.

Fixed term tenancy agreements

The government plans to accept a proposal from the cross-party housing select committee, stipulating that tenants cannot give two-months’ notice to leave until they have lived in a property for at least four months.

Young says:

In the new system, both landlords and tenants will continue to be able to communicate about when either party wishes to end the tenancy, landlords will have more grounds under section 8 to evict tenants at any point – and our new amendment on the initial six months, detailed above, will provide landlords certainty that a tenant cannot leave for the first six months, replicating the benefits of fixed terms for landlords.

Court system review

Also confirmed is that Section 21 based evictions will not be scrapped until the courts are reformed, to accommodate the switch to the Section 8 process.

Critics argue this kicks the fundamental reason for the Renters Reform Bill into the long grass, with an indefinite end to when the courts will be deemed suitable.

However, this is decidedly a win for landlords. Since, Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions will remain in place until landlords can reliably use the Section 8 court-based process.

Coverage of student housing

There were also promises by Young that the way student housing operates will be protected. To safeguard the annual cycle of the student housing market, all types of student housing, including one and two-bedroom properties, will be covered by the planned ground for possession.

Comments on the updates

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, emphasised the need for a balanced approach, stating:

All the rumour, speculation and off-the record briefings about the future of the Bill has 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.

Similarly, Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Propertymark, welcomed the amendments, noting that they address key concerns of letting agents and aim to strike a fairer balance of security for both landlords and tenants.

Research shows low awareness of the Bill

Despite the ongoing work in getting the Bill through, a recent survey conducted by the TDS Charitable Foundation revealed that over four out of five tenants remain unaware of the Renters Reform Bill and its contents.

A separate study issued by trading body Propertymark found that only 18 per cent of landlords surveyed said they understood the Bill.

This lack of awareness and understanding is concerning, considering the significant impact the Bill will have on the rental sector.

The Renters Reform Bill will now progress to the reporting stage in parliament, after Easter Parliamentary recess ends on 7th April.