More than four years after Tories first promised "a better deal for renters" ahead of 2019's general election, Housing Secretary Michael Gove will finally introduce the long-awaited legislation to parliament today.
The government described the new set of rules and regulations as a “once in a generation overhaul of housing laws”, however, tenants must wait for it to pass through parliament before it comes into force.
Gove said: "Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them.
“This government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a new deal to those living in the private rented sector; one with quality, affordability, and fairness at its heart.
“Our new laws introduced to parliament today will support the vast majority of responsible landlords who provide quality homes to their tenants while delivering our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions.
“This will ensure that everyone can live somewhere which is decent, safe and secure – a place they’re truly proud to call home.”
Abolishment of Section 21
Up until now, landlords have been able to use Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act to evict renters after the end of a fixed-term tenancy, with two months’ notice. However, under government plans, as part of the Renters Reform Bill, the scrapping of Section 21 will see landlords set to lose the right to evict tenants at short notice and will see tenancies "only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession".
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, responded to the publication of the Renters’ Reform Bill:
“Responsible landlords need to be confident that when Section 21 ends, where they have a legitimate reason, they will be able to repossess their properties as quickly as possible. Without this assurance, the Bill will only exacerbate the rental housing supply crisis many tenants now face.
“Whilst we welcome the Government’s pledge to ensure landlords can effectively recover properties from anti-social tenants and those failing to pay rent, more detail is needed if the Bill is going to work as intended.
“Ministers must develop a plan to improve the speed and efficiency with which the courts process possession claims. Although the Government has accepted NRLA calls to digitise cases, staff numbers need to increase in the court system as well to meet the needs of these reforms.
“Likewise, the Government must recognise the serious concerns of landlords letting to students about open-ended tenancies. Without the ability to plan around the academic year, students will have no certainty that properties will be available to rent when they need them.
“We will continue to work with the Government, MPs and Peers to ensure the Bill is workable and fair to both responsible landlords and tenants.”
Anna Mullins, Partner at Forsters law firm, comments: “The removal of section 21 no-fault evictions will provide greater security for tenants in the private rented sector. However, it may also drive landlords out of the market and exacerbate the housing crisis, ultimately driving rents up and making it harder for tenants to find affordable rental properties.
“Even if new grounds for possession are introduced or the current grounds are strengthened as proposed, there is bound to be litigation around the circumstances in which problematic tenants can be evicted.
"For example, the proposed wording for the expanded antisocial behaviour ground will extend to “any behaviour ‘capable’ of causing nuisance or annoyance”.
This is clearly open to interpretation and such uncertainty could be detrimental for both landlords and tenants. Similarly, what will constitute an “unreasonable” refusal for a tenant to keep a pet?
"These will be issues left for the courts to decide. For landlords, the procedure for obtaining possession is already time-consuming and costly, with many County Courts understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with the volume of straightforward possession claims.”