LUHC Select Committee Report on the White Paper “Reforming the Private Rented Sector” – Our Verdict

4.6 million households who live in the private rented sector (PRS) continue to wait for the Renters Reform Bill to improve the security, quality and affordability of their homes.

In the meantime, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee have released their report on the White Paper ‘a fairer private rented sector’ giving their view on the proposed  legislation. This is an important step in scrutinising the governme

4.6 million households who live in the private rented sector (PRS) continue to wait for the Renters Reform Bill to improve the security, quality and affordability of their homes.

In the meantime, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee have released their report on the White Paper ‘a fairer private rented sector’ giving their view on the proposed  legislation. This is an important step in scrutinising the government’s plans and has raised a number of issues which will shape the debate in the months to come.

Many of the committee’s recommendations represent progress and if enacted would help to redress the imbalance of power that exists between landlords and renters. First and foremost, we support the call to strengthen the grounds around landlords evicting tenants in the case of sale, by:

  • increasing the protected period where landlords cannot evict a tenant to sell the property, *although we would prefer to see this as two years),
  • increasing the proposed no-let period after the eviction of a sitting tenant to six months, to prevent the threat of abuse (although we would prefer to see this as a year),
  • increasing notice periods to four months to give tenants time to find a new home,
  • and advertising the property for sale with sitting tenant for six months before serving notice.

Introducing measures like this would significantly improve the government’s proposals . They would ensure greater security and more certainty for tenants who would otherwise continue to face a surprise eviction through no fault of their own.

Strengthening the landlord needs grounds for eviction in this way  would allow the government to deliver their commitment to greater security of tenure for tenants and protect tenants from abuse of no-fault eviction grounds. There has to be no risk of  ‘Section 21 through the back door’.

The committee was also right to highlight the damage that the loss of homes to the holiday lets sector is doing to supply of rental homes across the country. The call for a stronger registration system for holiday lets is a welcome one, but does not go far enough to combat the problem. As the committee is looking to “protect the local PRS”, we would recommend introducing a licensing scheme for such properties, allowing councils control to stop too many homes disappearing out of the reach of local families.

The committee’s decision to raise the problem of excessive rent rises is also exceptionally welcome, as too many tenants are suffering with surging rent bill which they have little choice but to try and pay.

Tenants can challenge a rent hike, but the rent tribunal is little known about and therefore little used. It is administrative cumbersome and tenants risk being asked to pay more than the landlord asked for!  In addition, a big problem tenants face when challenging unfair rent rises is the lack of accurate data relating to what rental prices ‘should’ be in their area. That’s why, the committee’s recommendation of using the government’s proposal of a Property Portal to gain a better understanding of market rents is a welcome. We would, however, like to see a firmer commitment to using this data to ensure that landlords cannot gouge prices while tenants are at their most vulnerable. Committing to capping rent rises at an affordable percentage would be the right decision in this case.

On the issue of energy efficiency, the call to support the introduction of the Decent Homes Standard in the PRS by combining it with Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards and rolling it out to all properties in the sector would be a welcome step in protecting renters who live in properties which are most susceptible to cold, damp and hazardous living conditions – an issue we know is more prevalent in the PRS than any other tenure type.

The committee correctly highlighted the need for financing for landlords who could not bring their property up to at least minimum standard without spending £10,000 or more to do so. However, any financial support must be provided with the tenant’s interest at heart – they need to  benefit from the funded works through reduced energy bills and no associated rent rises.

We also strongly endorse the committee’s recommendations to raise the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) after four years of freeze to support low income renters. However, our position remains that LHA should be brought up to the 50th percentile of local rents, or the median of local rents, immediately.

Finally, we welcome their acknowledgement that the Ombudsman’s responsibilities needs to be expanded to cover letting agents, ensuring that all renters are protected.

Despite the positives, some of the committee’s findings are of concern and need to be addressed.

Firstly, this Bill cannot be delayed any longer.  Private renters have been waiting far too long  – over four years – for the government to offer them the protections they desperately need. Delaying the repeal of section 21 until the court system is reformed therefore would be devastating to renters.

The abolition of evictions without reason is the absolute cornerstone of this Bill and must be enacted immediately to offer tenants security in their homes. Concerns about delays to possession cases could be addressed with better funding for the courts system.

We also agree with the government’s position that students should not be treated as second-class renters and should, like other renters, benefit from open-ended tenancies with the flexibility and freedom that entails.

And like the government we believe tenants have a right to ask to keep a pet, which the committee does not endorse despite acknowledging the “joy and happiness” they can bring to the lives of renters.

The issue of deposits is conspicuous by its almost-absence, as the measures in the White Paper do not go far enough to ensure that renters are not left out of pocket to the tune of thousands of pounds between tenancies.

The solution to this – deposit passporting – has not been addressed by either the White Paper (except to say private sector solutions will be monitored) or by the select committee, and progress needs to be made on this issue.

Finally, the challenges of enforcing sign-up to the property portal from landlords and ensuring that tenants are aware of their rights are highlighted in the report but without considering how they could reinforce each other. We believe this could be solved by making landlords liable for a Rent Repayment Order should they not register and provide critical information for the portal; this means that tenants would be adequately compensated for the time that they were not protected by this new legislation.

In conclusion, many of the committee’s recommendations are welcome and support the key principle of the Renters Reform Bill by ensuring that renters have greater security in their home.

By working together, we need to ensure the new legislation for renters protects them from abuse of any new eviction grounds and evictions at short notice – eight weeks is not long enough to find a new home.

Renters, too, need the government to help deal with spiralling and unaffordable rents, as well as manage the rise of holiday rentals which are strangling supply of homes in too many parts of the country.

That’s why the government’s delay in publishing the Renters’ Reform Bill is unacceptable – join our campaign: Renters’ Reform Bill now.


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