Five years on from the Government’s manifesto pledge to abolish Section 21 and two years since its ‘Fairer private rented sector’ White Paper, the Renters (Reform) Bill, launched in May 2023 and heralded as one of the most significant pieces of private rented sector legislation in three decades, finally passed through the House of Commons on 24 April 2024. Continuing its journey to the House of Lords in heavily amended form, its potential to reshape the rental landscape remains substantial.

As the Founder of Landlord Action, I am passionate about advocating for the rights of landlords and raising standards in the sector for both landlords and tenants. So, I have closely monitored the evolution of the Renters (Reform) Bill and the impact it will have.

The focus of debate at the third reading of the Bill in the Commons and in the subsequent media coverage has of course been the controversial abolition of Section 21. Specifically, the Government’s amendment requiring the Lord Chancellor to assess the county court possession order process in England and its enforcement before no-fault evictions can be abolished.

LIS Show – MPU

I agree that court reforms are necessary to make sure the system can handle the inevitable increase in Section 8 proceedings resulting from the abolition of Section 21. The alternative would be to overburden an already strained legal system, leading to further delays. A clear commitment to timely court reforms is essential for maintaining a healthy rental market.

But what’s crucial for stability in the sector now, is a clear timeline for implementing these court reforms. Both landlords and tenants need to know that any changes will be accompanied by measures to streamline the legal process and provide timely resolution to disputes.

The uncertainty around Section 21 has already prompted some landlords to exit the market, potentially reducing rental property availability and driving up rents. I believe landlords would be more willing to remain in the sector if they simply had reassurance that if they need their property back for good reason, there is a system able to facilitate this.

A transparent roadmap outlining the steps and timeline for court reforms would provide much-needed clarity to all parties involved, allowing landlords to plan and making sure that landlords and tenants have access to fair and efficient legal recourse.

Of course, the controversial abolition of “no-fault” evictions under Section 21 is just one of many changes introduced in the Bill.

During its third reading in the Commons on 24 April, the Government proposed amendments aimed at addressing concerns raised by MPs regarding some of the potential burdens placed on landlords by the original Bill. The previous draft abolished fixed term tenancies, allowing tenants to serve notice to quit at any time from day one of the tenancy, potentially turning long term tenancies into short term lets. A key amendment to the Bill will require tenants to give two months’ notice to leave a property. But only after four months, giving landlords a guaranteed occupancy for a minimum of six months. This provision seeks to strike a balance between tenant security and landlord flexibility. Although this amendment is of course subject to change during its passage through the Lords. The Government has also emphasised that exceptions could apply in certain circumstances, for example in cases of domestic abuse, which would allow a tenancy to end earlier.

Other significant amendments for landlords include changes to the grounds for possession of student properties, which should mean that the student-let market can continue to operate effectively. A new amendment extends the student ground for possession to all student properties, not just HMOs.

The Bill also introduces a number of significant proposals. Rolling tenancies, which signify the end of fixed-term contracts, represent a fundamental shift, as well as the proposed option for tenants to have pets in rental properties highlighting the evolving nature of tenant rights.

Another significant advancement is the establishment of an Ombudsman for landlords and new property standards, aiming to boost transparency and elevate professional integrity within the sector. These measures are designed to benefit reputable landlords by promoting a higher standard of operation.

Beyond the immediate legislative changes, the Renters (Reform) Bill signifies a deeper shift towards recognising the essential role of the private rented sector as housing provider. As the rental sector grows, accommodating a larger segment of the population, including families and older residents, the demand for fair, secure housing policies has become more pronounced. The Bill’s focus on long-term tenancies and tenant rights to make a rental property feel like a home are crucial steps in acknowledging the diverse needs of modern renters.

the Renters (Reform) Bill is a pivotal step in the evolution of the UK rental sector, offering both challenges and opportunities for all involved. As we move forward, it is crucial that this legislation progresses promptly to reflect the urgent needs of both landlords and tenants, ensuring a fair, transparent, and sustainable rental market.

Join me on Wednesday 5 June in London for what will be a five star training day. Designed to empower landlords and help you to efficiently manage your property business, expert speakers will cover topics such as tax, finance, property management, investment, guaranteed rent, the Renters (Reform) Bill and much more. The day is fully CPD accredited and will include breakfast and lunch. Find out more about ‘How to survive and thrive in 2024’ and book tickets: https://www.landlordinvestmentshow.co.uk/landlord-plus/

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Paul Shamplina

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