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Social Housing Speed Read – Renters’ Reform Bill and the abolition of s21 no fault evictions

The introduction of the Renters' Reform Bill (RRB) follows the government's 2019 manifesto pledge to reform the private rented sector.

The impetus behind this key piece of legislation was a desire to make the sector fairer for both landlord and tenants. But the question is, will the RRB deliver the necessary change?

Key points

The key provisions of the RRB are:

  • It will introduce a property portal database, which all private landlords will be required to be registered with. This database will list the landlords who are subject to relevant civil penalties, such as banning orders and will thereby create greater transparency in the sector.
  • It will create a new private sector ombudsman. All landlords will be required to be part of this organisation, which will have power to order remedial action in relation to landlord-tenant disputes as applicable.
  • It will reform grounds for possession. It will become easier for landlords to recover their property should they wish to either sell it or have it vacated so either they or family members can then reside there. One comfort for private renters here is that any properties retaken under these grounds will be subject to a 3 month prohibition for re-letting, which is intended to reduce the abuse of this provision.
  • It will establish a six month minimum period where tenants cannot give notice to leave the property. Although this grants a period of certainty to both landlords and tenants, it may create complications for tenants where the property is not fit for purpose or their circumstances change.
  • It will limit rent increases to once per annum and create a special tribunal to manage any disputes where the rent is increased beyond the market rate. This should create more certain and fair levels of annual rent
  • It will eventually abolish no fault evictions. Although this is the most notable change created by the RRB, its impact at present will be more limited.

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Hope for the end of no-fault evictions

The bill as originally drafted contained a provision that would have abolished section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. This would have seen an end to “no fault” evictions, where tenants might be given eviction notices by landlords even when not in breach of their tenancy agreement. In effect this would have ended the system of assured shorthold tenancies and given private renters greater stability for a secure home.

Following the parliamentary procedure, this amendment has been watered down and its implementation is now subject to an indefinite delay, as the government firstly allows for a review of the courts system.

Where does this leave renters?

The biggest cause of homelessness in the UK is due to eviction by private landlords, with 500 renters per day given eviction notices. Therefore, not only will this delay create further uncertainty for tenants, it also does nothing to address the underlying issue of homelessness.

UK courts currently face extensive backlogs and there were concerns raised that the abolition of section 21 notices would added to this with further complex eviction cases. Therefore, to minimise the potential impact, it was agreed that there would be a further review of the courts system before its implementation.

Although there may be cause for such investigation, the problem with the RRB is that the delay offers no clear timeline or any indication as to when section 21 notices will finally be abolished. Therefore, until the Lord Chancellor has published the findings of their report, private renters will be left waiting in the wings.

Overall, some of the changes introduced by the RRB will undoubtedly will create greater fairness in the private rental rector and these should be welcomed by both landlords and tenants. However, while it remains in its watered down form, excluding the ban on section 21 notices, the RRB is unlikely to deliver real change to the sector.

If you have any question relating to this article or how it might affect you, please do get in touch with John Murray, or another of our Social Housing Lawyers.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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