Plans to create fairer private rental sector in England take a step forward
Plans to create a fairer private rented sector in England are taking a step forward with the publication of a Government White Paper on Thursday.
Tenants will have stronger powers to challenge poor practice and unjustified rent increases under the proposals, and they could also be saved the expense of having to move as often from one rented home to another.
It will also be made illegal for landlords or agents to place blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.
The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper marks a generational shift, according to the Government, which will redress the balance between landlords and the 4.4 million privately renting households across England.
The decent homes living standard will be extended to the private sector, meaning homes must be free from serious health and safety hazards, and landlords must keep homes in a good state of repair so renters have clean, appropriate and useable facilities.
“No fault” Section 21 evictions that allow landlords to terminate tenancies without giving any reason will be outlawed.
More than a fifth of private renters who moved in 2019 and 2020 did not end their tenancy by choice, the Government said.
A new Private Renters’ Ombudsman will be created to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled quickly, and at a relatively low cost, without having to go to court.
Measures will also help responsible landlords to gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants, the Government said.
A new property portal will help landlords to understand, and comply with, their responsibilities as well as giving councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue operators.
The measures will form part of the Renters Reform Bill, as announced in the Queen’s Speech, to be introduced in this parliamentary session.
Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “For too long many private renters have been at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who fail to repair homes and let families live in damp, unsafe and cold properties, with the threat of unfair ‘no fault’ evictions orders hanging over them.
“Our new deal for renters will help to end this injustice by improving the rights and conditions for millions of renters as we level up across the country and deliver on the people’s priorities.”
While the majority of private rented homes are of good quality, offering safe, comfortable accommodation for families, the conditions of more than half a million properties pose an imminent risk to tenants’ health and safety, according to the Government.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The Renters Reform Bill is a game changer for England’s 11 million private renters. Scrapping unfair evictions will level the playing field. For the first time in a long time, tenants will be able to stand up to bad behaviour instead of living in fear.
“This White Paper promises people safety and security in their home, and it makes clear that landlords need to play by the rules. Gone will be the days of families being uprooted and children forced to move school after being slapped with a Section 21 no-fault eviction for no good reason.
“As these plans move through Parliament, they’ve got to keep their teeth to drive up standards and professionalise private renting. For every renter trapped in a never-ending nightmare of moving from one shoddy rental to the next, the Renters’ Reform Bill cannot come soon enough.”
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said: “Whilst headline commitments to strengthening possession grounds, speedier court processes and mediation are helpful, the detail to follow must retain the confidence of responsible landlords, as well as improving tenants’ rights.
“We will be analysing the Government’s plans carefully to ensure they meet this test. A failure to do so will exacerbate the housing crisis at a time when renters are struggling to find the homes they need.
“The eventual legislation needs to recognise that government actions have led to a shortage of supply in the sector at a time of record demand. It is causing landlords to leave the sector and driving up rents when people can least afford it.”
Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “Without proper safeguards we could still see thousands of tenants facing the hardship of unwanted moves, and more staying quiet about disrepair out of fear of a retaliatory eviction.
“If the Government can get the detail right and give tenants the confidence they need to request improvements and plan for the long term, this legislation has the potential to improve the lives of millions throughout England.”
Councillor David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: ““Removal of ‘no fault evictions’ is a key step towards increased protection for private renters and will allow renters to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of eviction. It will also be important that landlords are able to get their properties back in a timely fashion where they have a valid reason to do so.”
Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow levelling up and housing secretary, said: “More security for renters is welcome, but action is needed now, not after yet another consultation. While the Government has dithered and delayed, rents and evictions have shot up.
“Labour is calling for emergency legislation to immediately end no-fault evictions and give people more security in their home.”