We have previously discussed the upcoming Renters Reform bill in the context of the banning of section 21 notices. That process took a step forward with the publishing of the Renters Reform White Paper which sets out the scope of the proposed legislation and gives us an idea of timescale moving forwards.
The white paper sets out the elements that will be covered in the eventual legislation. Again as we have mentioned previously, the main elements of the white paper have support from all sides and so subject to certain inevitable alterations, should go through parliament without too much objection. Following the white paper release, we would expect the bill to be drawn up later this year which starts the process of becoming an Act of Parliament.
As well as the banning of section 21 notices, the white paper also includes:
A ban on unreasonable refusal by landlords to keep pets in a rental property
Housing standards requirements that landlord will need to meet
A legislative ban on landlords refusing to let to families with children or that are in receipt of housing benefits
Doubling the notice period required for landlords to increase the rent
A new ombudsman scheme to deal with disputes between landlords and tenants without needing to go to court
Incorporating grounds for landlords to recover possession if they are looking to sell the property even where the tenant is not in breach
Introducing a new property portal that will help landlords to understand their responsibilities as well as giving councils and tenants the information they need to enforce against the worst offenders
I would argue that many of these are not new conditions or revolutionary ideas. Housing standards has been recently legislated for in the Homes (Fitness of Human Habitation) Act. In recent cases involving the charity Shelter, the courts have determined landlords or managing agent’ policies with a blanket ban on tenants on benefits are already unlawful and discriminatory. Tenants are able try to oppose unreasonable refusal to keep pets using The Consumer Rights Act 2015 or the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. However if these problems are persisting despite the pre-existing authority above then it may be useful to re-iterate, clarify or toughen up the obligations. It will be interesting when the bill is released to see how the new protections differ, if at all, to those already in existence.
Despite the above, there are some radical changes incoming. An end to no-fault notices and the implementation of a landlord ombudsman scheme are not going to be easy and will require a lot of planning so this is still not going to be an overnight change. However after waiting over three years from the initial policy decision regarding section 21 notices, we are moving closer to the inevitable and this change will be happening sooner rather than later.
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