Rental reform White Paper: how will plans help tenants?

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The plans, unveiled by Michael Gove, would give tenants more power to crack down on practices such as unjustified rent increases



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New plans were unveiled to create a more equitable private rental sector.

Plans to create a fairer private rental sector in England were unveiled – and under the new proposals tenants would have more power to challenge landlords.

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A white paper outlining the plans was released Thursday from the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities.

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The measures, as announced in the Queen’s speech, will form part of the Renters Reform Bill to be presented at this Parliament session.

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But what changes would be made in the private rental sector and how would they benefit tenants? Here’s what you need to know.

New plans were unveiled to create a more equitable private rental sector.

What new powers would the plans give tenants?

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The government says the Fair Private Rented Sector white paper marks a generational shift that will restore balance between landlords and the millions of privately rented homes across England.

Under the proposals, tenants will have stronger powers to challenge bad practices and unjustified rent increases, and they could also avoid the expense of having to move from one rental property to another so often.

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It is also forbidden for landlords or brokers to prohibit letting to families with children or people on social security across the board.

“No Fault” Section 21 evictions, which allow landlords to terminate leases without reason, will be banned.

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The actions of the white paper include:

  • Ban on blanket bans on renting out to families with children or people on welfare
  • End the use of arbitrary rent-return clauses, limit rent increases by courts, and allow tenants to repay rent for substandard housing. This ensures that tenants can take their landlord to court to demand rent repayment if their apartments are of an unacceptable standard
  • Making it easier for renters to keep pets in their home by giving all renters the right to request a pet in their home, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse
  • All tenants are placed on a single fixed-term lease system, meaning they can leave poor quality housing without remaining liable for the rent, or relocate more easily if their circumstances change. A tenancy ends only when a tenant terminates or a landlord has a valid, legally defined reason
  • Double notice periods for rent increases and give tenants stronger powers to challenge them if they are unjustified
  • Give councils more powers to crack down on the worst offenders, backed by enforcement pilots, and increase fines for serious offences

More than a fifth of private tenants who moved in 2019 and 2020 did not voluntarily terminate their tenancy, the government said.

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The proposals also include the creation of a new ombudsman for private tenants to resolve disputes between private tenants and landlords quickly and at relatively low cost, without going to court.

The measures will also help responsible landlords efficiently repossess their properties from anti-social tenants, the government said.

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A new property portal will help landlords understand and comply with their responsibilities, and give councilors and tenants the information they need to fight rogue operators.

How many people are currently renting privately?

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There are currently around 4.4 million privately let households across England. The industry has grown in recent years.

A number of households, including families with children, live in the sector today. For many, it’s more of a long-term than short-term lodging.

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Michael Gove.

What was said about the plans?

While the majority of private rental housing is of good quality and offers safe and comfortable accommodation for families, the conditions of more than half a million properties pose an immediate risk to the health and safety of renters, the government said.

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Minister for Leveling Up and Housing Michael Gove said: “For too long many private tenants have been at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who have failed to repair homes and have left families living in damp, unsafe and cold properties, at the threat of unfair ‘ no fault’. Eviction notices hang over them.

“Our new Renters Agreement will help end this injustice by improving the rights and conditions for millions of renters as we rise across the country and meet people’s priorities.”

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Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “Without proper safeguards, we could still see thousands of renters facing the plight of unwanted moves, and even more remaining silent about the dilapidation for fear of a retaliatory eviction.

“If the Government gets the details right and gives tenants the confidence they need to apply for improvements and plan for the long term, this legislation has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people across England.”

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Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said: “While headline commitments are helpful in strengthening tenure, faster court proceedings and mediation, the following details need to maintain the confidence of responsible landlords and improve tenant rights.

“We will carefully analyze the government’s plans to ensure they pass this test. Otherwise, the housing crisis will be exacerbated at a time when renters are struggling to find the housing they need.

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“Eventual legislation must recognize that government action has resulted in a supply shortage in the sector at a time of record demand. It causes landlords to leave the sector and drives up rents when people can least afford it.”

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