Renters Reform Bill Has Second Reading in Parliament

Monday 23rd October saw the second reading and first debate of the controversial Renters Reform Bill in parliament. 

No voting has taken place yet but some important key elements of the proposed legislation were announced prior to the debate. In the coming weeks and months, the bill will be closely examined by a committee before continuing on its journey through the parliamentary process.

In this quick update, we’ll briefly recap the contents of the bill before covering the most recent developments and the issues still causing concern.

What does the bill cover?

Here’s a reminder of the original proposals floated in Michael Gove’s “A fairer private rented sector” white paper early in the second quarter of this year: 

  • Abolishing section 21 “no fault” evictions.
  • Moving to periodic tenancies and the removal of assured short-hold tenancies.
  • Strengthening section 8 grounds – particularly for anti-social tenants. 
  • Reforming the courts process – with new digital processes to reduce delays. 
  • Introducing a new ombudsman and digital Property Portal. 
  • Extending legal rights for tenants to request a pet in their rental property - with tenants expected to get pet insurance or to pay for the landlord’s pet damage insurance. 
  • Applying the “Decent Homes Standard” to the Private Rented Sector for the first time. 
  • Stopping landlords and agents from issuing blanket bans on tenants on benefits, or with families. 
  • Strengthening enforcement powers for councils.

Full details of the bill can be found here

What happened in the second reading?

During the debate, a recurring theme was the role of the courts and broader justice system in relation to the changes proposed in the bill. 

During the initial consultation, landlords raised concerns regarding evictions and the difficulties experienced with court procedures. It seems that the government has, to a certain degree, paid attention, promising that the central part of the bill (abolition of section 21) will not take effect until eviction procedures through the courts have been improved. 

According to Letting Agent Today, “the Housing Secretary made this same point over the weekend in a letter to the Select Committee on Housing.

However, he repeated that the government was committed to the removal of Section 21 to prevent bad landlords from intimidating tenants, silencing those complaining about poor standards of housing and the need for repairs.

Alongside this there was a commitment to strengthening provisions under Section 8 to reliably regain possession where necessary, lowering the threshold to prove anti-social behaviour and tackling unscrupulous tenants who abuse provisions to protect the vulnerable.”

You can read the full article here.

What are the next steps for the bill?

In essence, there has been some clear progress towards a mutual ground on the bill for both landlords and tenants. However, there is still work to do. 

On a personal note, I also have concerns regarding the government’s lack of understanding of the sector, for example regarding housing benefit. Nicol and Co raised this issue in the initial reply to the white paper and process of consultation on the bill (submitted via Propertymark). It remains to be seen what changes or concessions will be made to address the industry’s remaining concerns.

The bill will now undergo line-by-line scrutiny via a committee. It’s at this stage where amendments are proposed and discussed as well as evidence heard from experts and interested parties from outside parliament. We’ll keep you posted on its progress.