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Category: renters reform bill

The 2022 Queen’s Speech brought with it news that the government will be upholding its commitment, made in the 2019 Queen’s Speech, to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions. However, a date for the Whitepaper due to precede it has not been given.

Prince Charles delivered the speech, at the State Opening of Parliament on 10th May 2022, on Queen’s behalf.

Renters Reform Bill

Page 67 of the background briefing notes, which accompanied the speech, covered the Renters Reform Bill, discussing the intent to do away with Section 21, “halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030 and create a rental market that is fairer and more effective for tenants and landlords.”

The removal of Section 21 is of grave concern to many landlords. Until improvements are brought to bear in the Section 8 eviction process, it is likely the private rental sector (PRS) will remain uneasy. Nonetheless, there were words of positive sentiment for landlords within the document.

For example, the briefing notes referenced a key benefit of the Bill would be:

“Providing a more effective legal framework and a more stable rental market for landlords to remain and invest in.”

And referenced that the Bill would be:

“Reforming possession grounds for landlords, introducing new and stronger grounds for repeated incidences of rent arrears and reducing notice periods for anti-social behaviour, ensuring that they can regain their property efficiently when needed."

Of late, there has been a great deal of discussion on landlords leaving the PRS, due to various regulatory and tax changes, which have felt like a dissuasion to remain in the industry. So, to hear that landlords can expect an improved legal framework and reforms to ensure that when there is wrongdoing, on the part of the tenant, that they can be quickly evicted is good. But, it is easy to imagine many landlords may feel cynical as to the true outcome of these intentions.

Tenant-focused rhetoric?

In a press release the following day, 11th May 2022, the message seemed to flip back to a focus on tenants.

The release was itself titled “Government to deliver ‘new deal’ for renters”, rather than a broader focus on all groups within the industry.

In four points within an opening summary the piece spoke of providing the “biggest change to renters law in a generation”, legislation that “will drive up quality for private renters” and “regular rigorous inspections and stronger powers to tackle failings by social housing landlords”.

The fourth point did acknowledge the positive messages for landlords mentioned above, around Section 21:

“It will ban Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, protecting tenants from unscrupulous landlords, while strengthening landlords’ legitimate grounds for taking back their property”

In a quote from Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, renters also featured strongly:

“Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe and cold homes, powerless to put it right, and under the threat of sudden eviction.

“The New Deal for renters announced today will help to end this injustice, improving conditions and rights for millions of renters.

“This is all part of our plan to level up communities and improve the life chances of people from all corners of the country.”

There was however a strong message for landlords around repossessions:

“The Bill will also strengthen landlords’ grounds for repossession making it easier for them to evict tenants who are wilfully not paying rent, or who are repeatedly engaging in anti-social behaviour, bringing down neighbourhoods.”

Are landlord fears justified?

Landlords have faced an onslaught of criticism for several years, where in fact, if you look at the broader picture, the age-old adage that a few are ruining it for the majority seems in reality to be the case.

Groups supporting landlords are keen as anyone to eliminate the rogue and disreputable element, for the good of everyone. Not least to ease the negative perception of the industry for those that are looking to run their property business well, like any other, and in many cases provide for their financial future in lieu of withering pension income.

Chief executive of the NRLA, Ben Beadle greeted the news positively, but with words of caution:

“We welcome the Government’s acceptance that reforms to the rented sector need to strengthen the ability of landlords to tackle anti-social tenants and those with repeated rent arrears. We will continue to work to ensure that these and other grounds for possession are fair and workable.

“Whilst we support proposals for an Ombudsman to cut the number of possession cases needing to go the court, this cannot be a substitute for proper court reform as well. At present it can take almost a year for a private landlord to repossess a property through the courts where they have a legitimate reason to do so. This is simply not good enough.”

The much promised White paper will hopefully answer a number of questions around how the existing legal process will be improved. With it, landlords have to hope that the answers will put their minds at ease.

The bottom line is that the government needs a bigger housing resource, not a smaller one, so the outcome really does have to work for all concerned.