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.
The measures will form part of the Renters Reform Bill, as announced in the Queen’s Speech.
Why do the government want to shake up the private rental sector?
According to the government, the balance between landlords and the 4.4 million privately renting households across England needs to be redressed.
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, the government 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," Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove commented.
The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper will end this "injustice", Mr Gove said.
How might the plans benefit tenants?
Tenants will have stronger powers to challenge poor practice and unjustified rent increases under the proposals.
They could be saved the expense of having to move as often from one rented home to another.
It will be made illegal for landlords or agents to place blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.
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, which 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.
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How will the policies benefit landlords?
Measures will help responsible landlords to gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants, the government said.
Additionally, a new property portal will be set up to help landlords understand, and comply with, their responsibilities. The portal will also give councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue operators.
When might the measures be introduced?
They will be brought in during the current parliamentary session, meaning the changes could take place at any time from now until next May.
However, Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow levelling up and housing secretary, said the legislation needs to introduced as soon as possible, "not after yet another consultation".
"While the government has dithered and delayed, rents and evictions have shot up," she said.
"Labour is calling for emergency legislation to immediately end no-fault evictions and give people more security in their home.”
Will the measures be effective?
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, called the Bill a "game changer".
"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," she said.
“As these plans move through Parliament, they’ve got to keep their teeth to drive up standards and professionalise private renting."
The government must "get the details right", 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."
However, she added that the 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.”
What do landlords think of the plans?
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said the government's plans to strengthen possession grounds, speedier court processes and mediation are helpful.
However, he added: "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."