'A Fairer Private Rented Sector' - We explore the Government's latest Housing Reforms

Last week the Government published its White Paper ‘ A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ after a recent consultation on the long discussed Renters Reform Bill.

“Together, these reforms will help to ease the financial burden on renters, reducing moving
costs and emergency repair bills. It will reset the tenant-landlord relationship by making sure
that complaints are acted upon and resolved quickly. Most importantly, however, the reforms
set out in this White Paper fulfil this Government’s pledge to level up the quality of housing in
all parts of the country so that everyone can live somewhere which is decent, safe and secure –
a place they’re truly proud to call home.”

White Papers are policy documents produced by the Government that set out their proposals for future legislation, with that in mind, nothing is set in stone just yet but it is highly likely that these reforms will be seen through. We’ve taken the time to provide a summary of the expected items that have been proposed:

Safe and Decent Homes

Earlier this year, Michael Gove unveiled the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper which announced plans that all homes in the Private Rented Sector will have to meet a minimum standard – The Decent Homes Standard. This chapter of the White Paper reiterates their previous commitments by:

  • Delivering on their Levelling Up housing mission to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030 by requiring privately rented homes to meet the Decent Homes Standard for the first time.
  • Accelerating quality improvements in the areas that need it most by running pilot schemes with a selection of local councils to trial improvements to the enforcement of existing standards and exploring different ways of working with Landlords to speed up the adoption of the Decent Homes Standard
  • Legislating the introduction of a legally binding Decent Homes Standard (DHS)
  • Completing a review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

Increased Security and More Stability

The Government believes in giving tenants freedom to move if their life circumstances change and more confidence that they can remain in their home by:

  • Abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and delivering a simpler, more secure tenancy structure
  • Moving all tenants who would previously have had an Assured Tenancy or Assured Shorthold Tenancy onto a single system of periodic tenancies
  • Reform grounds for possession to make sure that Landlords have effective means to gain possession of their property where necessary. Such as introducing a new mandatory ground for repeated serious arrears e.g. Eviction will be mandatory where a tenant has been in at least two months’ arrears three times within the previous three years, regardless of the arreras balance at hearing.

Improved Dispute Resolution

Landlords and tenants should be supported by a system that enables effective resolution of issues and should feel empowered to be able to challenge if justified. Therefore the government has put forward:

  • Only allowing increases to rent once per year, ending the use of rent review clauses and improving tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases through the First Tier Tribunal
  • Strengthening tenants’ ability to hold Landlords to account and introducing a new single Ombudsman that all private landlords must join. The Ombudsman will have powers to put things right for tenants, including compelling landlords to issue and apology, provide information, take remedial action, and/or pay compensation of up to £25,000
  • Working with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to target the areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings targeting the areas that particularly frustrating and hold-up possession proceedings
  • Expanding rent repayment orders to cover repayment for non-decent homes
  • Working with the courts to consider the prioritisation of certain cases
  • Improving the provision of earlier access to legal advice for renters
  • Strengthening and embedding mediation services for Landlords and renters, providing avoidable evictions

Better Compliance and Robust Enforcement

In this Chapter, the Government aim to crack down on Landlords who have poor practises and even eliminating criminal Landlords from the market by:

  • Introducing a new Property Portal to make sure that tenants, landlords and local councils have the information they need; Clear communication and guidance is essential to ensure tenants and landlords understand their rights and responsibilities
  • Strengthening local councils’ enforcement powers and ability to crack down on criminal landlords
  • Introducing a database of Rogue Landlords and Property Agents
  • Mandating entry of all eligible offences on the Database and making offence data publicly viewable
  • Seeking to lower the current threshold for civil penalty entry to cover all civil penalties
  • Helping local councils pursue worst offenders by stripping away red tape, introducing a fine regime, and increasing investigative powers

A Positive Renting Experience

For some prospective tenants, this chapter of the White Paper might be the most intriguing as the Government aims to:

  • Make it illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits (so called ‘No DSS’ bans)
  • Give tenants the right to request that they can have a pet in their property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse
  • Work with industry experts to monitor the development of innovative market-led solution to passport deposits

These reforms go much further than many initially expected as the Government claims to bring the PRS into the 21st century and calling it “the biggest shake-up of the private rented sector in 30 years.” The government will bring forward legislation through the Renters’ Reform Bill in the 2022 – 2023 parliamentary session.

If you are a Landlord or Tenant with any questions or concerns about any of the items outlined above. Belvoir Cambridge are happy to offer free, impartial advice to help you better understand your rights and obligations.