On 16 June 2022 the Government published a white paper, which set out its plans for changes to the private rented sector, entitled ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’.
The purpose is neatly explained in the foreword provided by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities:
"Everyone has a right to a decent home. No one should be condemned to live in properties that are inadequately heated, unsafe, or unhealthy. Yet more than 2.8 million of our fellow citizens are paying to live in homes that are not fit for the 21st century. Tackling this is critical to our mission to level up the country……
"In our Levelling Up White Paper - published earlier this year - we set out a clear mission to halve the number of poor-quality homes by 2030….
"It underlines our commitment, through the Renters Reform Bill, to ensure all private landlords adhere to a legally binding standard on decency.
"The Bill also fulfils our manifesto commitment to replace Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices with a modern tenancy system that gives renters peace of mind so they can confidently settle down and make their house a home.
"These changes will be backed by a powerful new Ombudsman so that disputes between tenants and landlords can be settled quickly and cheaply, without going to court."
The paper sets out a 12 point action plan containing the Government’s proposals for a private rented sector that they claim will be fairer, more aligned to fit the needs of the 21st century and deliver a better deal for tenants.
The headline proposals include:
- Abolishing section 21 so called ‘no-fault’ evictions and introducing a simpler tenancy structure. This will involve all tenants under assured or assured shorthold tenancies moving to a catch all system of periodic tenancies. A tenant will be able to leave at any time on giving 2 months’ notice but a landlord will have less options to remove tenants as result of the loss of the section 21 process and will only be able to end the tenancy in ‘reasonable circumstances’ (as yet unknown) that will be specified in legislation.
- There will be a new ground of possession for repeated serious rent arrears so that a mandatory possession order is granted in the event a tenant has been in at least two months’ of rent arrears three times in the previous three years and a further new ground landlords can rely on if they wish to sell their property or re-occupy it themselves;
- Applying the ‘Decent Homes Standard’ currently used in the social renting sector to the private rented sector for the first time;
- A restriction on rent review clauses and provisions that allow challenges to increases in rent by application to the first tier tribunal;
- A bar on landlords unreasonably withholding consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge a decision. Landlords will also be prevented from excluding tenants with children or those in receipt of benefits and the Government also proposes to improve support to landlords who do rent to benefit claiming tenants.
- Introducing a new Property Portal to help ensure that tenants, landlords and local councils have the information they need to understand their obligations. It is envisaged that local authorities will be able to take enforcement action against private landlords that fail to join the portal; and
- Introducing a mandatory Housing Ombudsman covering all private rented sector landlords and which is able to provide various forms of redress for tenants. It is possible this change will also assist landlords in avoiding the unacceptable delays currently seen in the county court system.
The paper can be found on: A fairer private rented sector - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) but as ever the devil will be in the detail of the legislation which is proposed to be in the Renters Reform Bill due to be heard in this current parliamentary session.