Latest Amendments to the Renters (Reform) Bill
The Renters (Reform) Bill is progressing in its legislative journey and now, having finished the Committee stage, is awaiting the report stage. The most recent version of the Bill with the latest amendments was published on 6 December 2023. This blog takes a look at some of the key latest amendments.
Student HMO Possession Ground
One of the amendments proposed is the introduction of new ground 4A. This ground will allow landlords operating in the private student rental market to recover possession of the property at the end of the academic year.
However, the proposed ground is restrictive in nature. It is only for student HMOs where the property is let to joint tenants, who at the beginning of the tenancy were full-time students or were reasonably believed to become full-time students. The date specified in the section 8 notice must be a date between 1 June and 30 September coinciding with the end of the academic year.
Further, a landlord can only seek possession under this ground if when the property is next re-let, it is let to full-time students or those reasonably believed to be full-time students during the tenancy.
Therefore, this new ground, though a mandatory ground, will only cover a narrow category of students (full-time students) occupying certain HMOs (i.e. not two-person student house shares) under joint tenancies.
Rent Repayment Orders (RROs)
Further to the Supreme Court decision in Rakusen v Jepsen in which it was clarified that Rent Repayment Orders (RROs) can only be made against a tenant’s immediate landlord. Learn more about the Supreme Court Judgment on Rent Repayment Order Case.
Tenant organisations such as Safer Renting were concerned that RROs would be less effective against landlords in “rent-to-rent” arrangements in the private rented sector.
Therefore, an amendment has been proposed to allow an RRO application to be brought against an immediate or superior landlord. Further, where there are multiple landlords, such as in a rent-to-rent arrangement, and the Tribunal makes an RRO against more than one landlord, the Tribunal may apportion liability between the landlords in such manner it considers appropriate or provide for the landlords to be jointly and severally liable for the RRO amount.
It is also proposed that the maximum award for RRO will be increased from 12 months to 2 years which will significantly increase some tribunal awards.
Decent Homes Standard
The amended Renters (Reform) Bill also makes provision for a new Decent Homes Standard to apply in the private rented sector. The specified requirements that will need to be met will be set out in regulations. A Decent Homes Standard sets a minimum standard for properties. The Decent Homes Standard requirements will cover, but are not limited to, the following areas:
- The property’s state of repair
- Things to be provided for use by persons occupying the property or for their safety, security or comfort
- The means of keeping the property at a suitable temperature
It is estimated that 21% of the properties in the private rented sector do not meet the Decent Homes Standard. Therefore, these properties will need to be upgraded to ensure compliance with the Decent Homes Standard. It is intended that the Property Portal and the grant of new powers to local authorities to investigate complaints and enforce compliance will drive up standards.
Clauses prohibiting discrimination against tenants with children and people in receipt of benefits have also been included in the latest version of the bill. Under the proposed amendments, it will be illegal to discriminate against a prospective tenant by preventing them from enquiring, accessing, or viewing the property. It will also be an offence if a prospective tenant is prevented from entering into a tenancy due to having a family with children or being in receipt of benefits. Any practices adopted to deter such tenants will also be considered discriminatory.
However, it has been noted that the provisions fail to address racial discrimination in the sector. Shelter has commented that other informal barriers to renting such as landlords seeking large payments of rent in advance and/or requiring a guarantor need to be addressed to tackle discrimination in the sector.
Abolishing section 21
Although not an amendment, in October the Government also issued its response to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee report. The response confirms that section 21 will be abolished, however, it will be delayed until court reforms are implemented to improve the possession process. The response summarises the target areas as:
- Digitisation of the court process
- Prioritising certain cases including anti-social behaviour
- Improving bailiff recruitment and retention and reducing administrative tasks
- Providing early legal advice and signposting for tenants to help them find housing solutions that meets their needs.
Commentators argue that the reforms to the court system are likely to take some time before the system becomes effective. This could mean the abolition of section 21 is delayed for much longer.
While there are other proposals and recommendations as well as further expected changes to be made to the Renters (Reform) Bill, it is certain that the private rented sector in England is about to undergo major reform. For those operating in the sector, it will be crucial to stay up to date with the legal advancements and the practical implications.* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*