The Renters (Reform) Bill: Our Verdict

Picture of Conor O'Shea

Conor O'Shea

Generation Rent's Policy and Public Affairs Manager with Generation Rent's verdict on the Renters (Reform) Bill.

The Renters (Reform) Bill is here! It was finally published on Wednesday 17 May and is a significant milestone for renters’ rights. The Bill is an important step forward which should be celebrated, but we are conscious that things must be tightened up to ensure that it gives renters the protections they need. It is a good time to note all of the hard work done by renters rights campaigners over the years, including Generation Rent and our colleagues on the Renters Reform Coalition, but rest assured we will not stop now.

This is a fantastic opportunity to secure crucial improvements to the situation that renters face and we will be pushing as hard as we can to ensure that these improvements are won.

The Bill is broadly positive, but we do have some concerns which must be addressed which are outlined below.

Section 21 Abolition and New Possession Grounds

Generation Rent welcomes the abolition of arbitrary Section 21 evictions, which is at the centre of this Bill, as it will give renters more assurance that they can live in their home long term and let them report problems without fear of a retaliatory eviction.

However, the grounds outlined for landlords to reclaim possession of their properties in the event of a sale or the moving in of themselves or a family member are open to abuse and must be tightened. The Bill rightly prohibits landlords who use these “no-fault” grounds from re-letting the property for a period. But for this to act as a sufficient deterrent to landlords who currently use Section 21 and will not have legitimate grounds for eviction under the new regime, this no-let period should be longer than the three months proposed and must apply after the court grants a possession order.

Tenants should also be eligible for compensation if they are evicted unlawfully under these grounds, in an effort to drive enforcement of this issue, which falls largely to the evicted tenant. It is not clear from the Bill that such tenants could apply for a Rent Repayment Order that currently exist for unlawful eviction.
The proposed two-month notice period, and six-month initial protected period, also leaves renters evicted under legitimate no-fault grounds in the same position as they currently are under Section 21.

This notice period should be a minimum of four months to give sufficient time for them to find a new home. To strengthen security of tenure, tenants should be immune from no-fault eviction for at least two years and also receive financial support from their landlord to move.

We are concerned that changes to anti-social behaviour grounds could result in unfair evictions. That tenants can also be evicted for anything that is “capable of causing nuisance and annoyance” requires clarification as it is ambiguous and open to abuse. There is also an exemption for landlords to comply with deposit protection requirements while evicting a tenant using anti-social behaviour grounds, which is an invitation to unscrupulous landlords to make false allegations. The move to a two-week notice period for an eviction leaves tenants very little time to get legal advice.

We are also worried about the addition of a mandatory ground for eviction for cases where landlords face enforcement action, as tenants should not be punished for offences committed by the landlord.

The Property Portal and Ombudsman

The Property Portal and Ombudsman are also positive elements of this Bill, we have concerns around their enforceability. Tenants should be provided rent repayment orders in all cases of their landlords failing to register, not just where they have lied to access it or repeatedly failed to do so.

The portal should also mandate that eviction notices be registered centrally to monitor and police use of repossession grounds, and give landlords a further reason to comply with the portal.

Up-to-date Energy Performance Certificates and Gas Safety Certificates must also be a mandatory part of registration to ensure tenant safety in their homes and maintain existing protections from eviction.

The Rent Tribunal

The rent tribunal, which allows tenants to challenge excessive rent rises, will continue to allow rents to go higher than the landlord initially requests. This appears to be an attempt to disincentivise its use and will mean that tenants face greater uncertainty in their negotiations with their landlord. It also leaves tenants vulnerable to unaffordable rent increases equivalent to no-fault eviction by the back door.

Basing decisions on the rent in the open market will allow landlords to evict tenants by the back door by asking for unaffordable rent, knowing the tenant can’t pay. The tribunal must be designed to give tenants confidence to challenge an unfair increase without fear of further detriment.

This is another key milestone on the journey to secure better rights for renters, but there are still many steps yet to go. There is plenty of time and ample opportunity to get things right, and we will be scrutinising the detail and highlighting these issues throughout the process.


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