The renters reform bill – A complete overview

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renters reform bill

The Renters Reform Bill was introduced to the UK Parliament on 17 May 2023. It aims to fundamentally reform the private rented sector by improving conditions for both landlords and tenants.

Read more about the details of this bill in depth and discover what it means for UK landlords.

What is the renters reform bill?

The bill contains all the proposed legislative changes that could significantly impact landlords and tenants if passed into law. As the bill suggests, it is set to reform the way landlords have to manage their property. Increasing the rights for tenants in the process.

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Key provisions include:

  • Abolishing Section 21 “no-fault” evictions
  • Strengthening grounds for landlords to recover their properties
  • Establishing a Private Rented Sector Ombudsman for dispute resolution
  • Creating a national “landlord database” portal

When will the renters reform become law?

The Renters Reform Bill is expected to pass through Parliament and become law around October 2024. However, it still needs to complete several stages, including passing through the House of Lords even though the house of commons is a more powerful chamber.

House of lords building in the uk

In the Lords, it will have a First Reading, Second Reading, Committee Stage, Report Stage and Third Reading, just like in the Commons. You can track the bill’s progression on the official UK Parliament website.

When did the renters reform bill originate?

The Renters Reform Bill was first introduced in Parliament on 17 May 2023. If it receives Royal Assent around October 2024 as predicted, it will have spent approximately 17 months in Parliament.

Unlike what may be reported, this is not unusually long for a complex and potentially impactful bill.

What stage is the bill at now?

The Renters Reform Bill is currently in the House of Commons. It has completed its First Reading, Second Reading, committee stage, report stage and is now on to the third reading.

It has also completed the Committee Stage, where a committee of MPs or Lords examine and change the bill. The recent report stage saw the bill get reported back to the House of Commons for approval

The tracking of the renters reform bill

The next step is the third reading, where the amended bill will be reported back to the House of Commons for approval.

Why is the renters reform bill taking so long?

The Renters Reform Bill is taking longer than anticipated to become law due to two main factors factors.

First of all, there is the government’s recent announcement that the bill will be delayed until the court system can be reformed, a process that could take years.

This delay is tied to ongoing issues with the digitisation of the UK court system after a 2023 survey by the Law Society of over 700 solicitors found that 62% of respondents experienced delays in court. This delays all bills in parliament.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Secondly, and more specifically to the renters reform bill, the bill itself is a complex and controversial piece of legislation.

Many landlords and property industry groups have raised concerns about the proposed regulations and hefty fines, arguing they could drive landlords out of the market. This article from the BBC highlights the concerns.

When will the bill be passed to the house of Lords?

The precise timing of when the Renters Reform Bill will be passed to the House of Lords depends on the government’s legislative timetable and priorities.

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However, landlords can stay informed on the bill’s progress and prepare for the upcoming changes by signing up with out property management services.

The main changes of the renters reform bill broken down

In general, most landlords will experience the most change from the below sections of the bill. These changes are some of the most controversial and getting rid of assured shorthold tenancies being the main pushback from landlords

The abolition of assured shorthold tenancies

The Renters Reform Bill will abolish assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs). Under current law, most private renters have ASTs which allow landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason using a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice after a fixed term (usually 6 or 12 months).

Under the bill, all new tenancies will be periodic assured tenancies that cannot be ended by the landlord without a valid reason, such as rent arrears or the landlord needing to sell or move into the property. Existing ASTs will automatically transition to the new system.

This change aims to provide greater security for tenants. However, some landlords are concerned it will make it harder to regain possession of their properties when needed.

Changes to grounds to possession

Schedule 1 of the bill makes significant changes to the grounds on which landlords can seek possession through the courts:

  • Ground 1 (landlord’s use of property) will require at least 6 months’ notice.
  • New grounds 1A and 1B allow possession if the landlord intends to sell the property.
  • New grounds allow possession when a superior lease ends, for occupation by an employee, or where student or supported housing is no longer needed for that purpose.
  • The serious rent arrears ground will no longer require arrears at the date of the hearing.
  • A new ground covers repeated serious arrears.
A bunch of keys for a renter in London

While the reforms retain grounds for landlords to regain properties when necessary, the changes overall make it harder for landlords to evict tenants, especially at short notice or for no reason.

Statutory procedures for increases in rent

Under the bill, rent increases for periodic assured tenancies will only be allowed once per year and must use a prescribed notice and procedure.

Tenants will be able to challenge increases as unreasonable by applying to the First-tier Tribunal, which will determine an open market rent. This replaces the little-used procedure of applying to the Tribunal for a ‘fair rent’.

These changes aim to ensure rent increases are predictable and not excessive. However, some argue rent controls could distort the market and reduce housing supply if landlords feel unable to charge viable rents.

Right to request permission to keep a pet

The bill introduces a right for tenants to request permission to keep a pet in their rented home. Landlords must consider such requests and cannot unreasonably refuse consent.

Landlords may require the tenant to obtain pet insurance to cover damage as a condition of granting permission. However, they cannot charge higher rent or require an additional pet deposit.

a cat that is in a property due to the renters reform bill

This change recognises the importance of pets to many tenants but balances this with landlords’ need to protect their property. Some landlords argue it weakens their control over their properties.

Additional landlord duties

The bill imposes new duties on landlords, including:

  • Providing the tenant with a written copy of the terms of their tenancy and other key information.
  • Allowing tenants to remain in the property and not serving an eviction notice in the first 6 months of the tenancy, except in limited circumstances.
  • Restrictions on re-letting a property after serving certain eviction notices.

These changes aim to ensure tenants are fully informed and protected, especially at the start of a tenancy. However, some landlords feel the requirements are overly burdensome and they require additional tenant referencing to agree on rent.

Increase financial penalties for landlords

The bill significantly increases financial penalties that can be issued by local authorities to landlords for certain breaches. The maximum penalties will increase to £30,000.

New civil penalties of up to £5,000 are introduced for non-compliance with the new duties like failing to provide tenancy information or allow tenants to stay for the first 6 months.

Penalties aim to deter non-compliance and ensure local authorities can enforce standards. However, landlords are concerned about potentially facing high fines.

Changes to notices to quit

Tenants will be required to give 2 months’ notice to end a tenancy in most cases, an increase from the current 1 month’s notice.

A bunch of keys for a renter in London.jpg

Tenants will be allowed to withdraw a notice to quit before it expires if the landlord agrees. Methods of serving notice will be more flexible.

The changes balance the desire to give landlords more certainty with the need to ensure tenants can leave contracts that no longer suit their needs.

What are some changes in the renters reform bill you probably didn’t know?

When the renters reform bill is mentioned, many know about the changes to section 21 and the right for tenants to ask to have pets in their property. The below points are changes of the bill that are significant but perhaps have been swept under the carpet.

Assured agricultural occupancies

The bill makes some small but significant changes to assured agricultural occupancies. These are a type of assured tenancy for agricultural workers housed as part of their employment.

Key changes include removing Ground 16 for possession (which allowed eviction when employment ended) from the mandatory grounds. Instead, recovering possession when employment ends will rely on the standard no-fault eviction procedure.

Farmland in the UK being changed due to the renters reform

This change aligns protections for agricultural occupants with other private renters. However, some farmers are concerned it could make providing housing for workers more difficult.

The local authorities accommodation for homeless people

When a local authority provides accommodation to a homeless applicant under certain provisions, the bill specifies that an assured tenancy cannot be created.

This aims to ensure local authorities can recover possession of temporary homeless accommodation when they cease to have a duty to house the applicant.

It represents a small carve-out from the overall move away from fixed-term tenancies. The change ensures the homelessness system can operate as intended.

New tenancy deposit requirements

The bill amends tenancy deposit protection (TDP) legislation to reflect the abolition of assured shorthold tenancies. When the renters reform is in effect, landlords will need to protect deposits for any existing assured tenancies that were not previously required to have deposit protection.

Tenancy-Deposit-Scheme-1

Changes also prevent a landlord from regaining possession through the courts if the deposit is unprotected, except for serious rent arrears or anti-social behaviour grounds.

This aligns deposit protection across all private tenancies. However, some landlords may be caught out by the need to protect deposits for previously-exempt tenancies.

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