At last, rental reform brings better protection for tenants

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After so many years of chops and changes to property rental law, the Renters’ Reform Bill should have a dramatic effect on rental agreements with greater protection for tenants.

The introduction of the Bill, first put forward in 2019, was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities recently announced that publication of the white paper has been pushed back to spring 2022.

The key proposals for tenants are:

  • scrapping Section 21 evictions
  • making the database of rogue landlords accessible to the public
  • the introduction of lifetime deposits for tenants.

What is Section 21?

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 enables private landlords to repossess their properties from shorthold tenants without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant – hence the ‘no fault’ grounds for eviction.

The National Residential Landlords’ Association, however, have also been campaigning for clarity on the grounds for possession. They call for reforms on conciliation and a dedicated housing court which speed up the process of possession. They say there’s a risk of landlords leaving the sector, reducing the amount of housing available for rent.

Protection for tenants against criminal landlords

Probably the greatest concern for tenants is criminal landlords. The proposals in the Bill will make the database of rogue landlords accessible to the wider public. This will help tenants make an informed decision about who they rent from.

There are inevitable questions around how this will be managed and funded. What will be the outcome for rogue landlords, and how might they appeal allegations if they think them incorrect?

Lifetime deposits

The reformed bill proposes a new Lifetime Deposit scheme, allowing renters to transfer their deposit from one property to another. This will safeguard their finances, so they don’t have to wait for reimbursement from their old landlord while finding the money to secure their new property.

Landlords, who already feel that they carry a huge and unfair statutory burden, want greater protection in relation to making future claims against these deposits. In any case, landlords will soon need to start preparing for widespread rental reforms.

Increased complexity?

Both landlords and tenants will have to master the range and scope of the new reforms. The main issues are:

  • Who will set up the landlord database? Who will police it and deal with appeals against incorrect allegations?
  • How will the lifetime deposit scheme work and how will disputes be adjudicated?
  • How will a conciliation system work? Will a housing court be created and if so, under whose jurisdiction? 

Your questions

The new Renters’ Reform Bill is bound to throw up a lot of questions from tenants and landlords alike. Please don’t hesitate to contact us and speak to one of our property law experts – we’re here to help and advise. Call Paul Harrington on 01273 324041.