The Renters’ Reform Bill, Explained

With the election done and dusted, focus will inevitably turn to policy and, of course, Brexit. More than enough has been said about Brexit, but what of policy – especially in relation to the lettings industry? The buy-to-let sector features heavily on the policy side of things and made its way into the briefing notes of the Queen’s Speech.

The Renters’ Reform Bill bill proposes sweeping changes that intend to provide both landlords and tenants with more security. There’s isn’t a definitive date for when the legislation will come into effect. But it’s likely to be at some point in 2020. 

We’ve taken a look at the reform to provide you with a better idea of what the changes mean and how they will apply to landlords and tenants. Read on, and get the lowdown on everything you need to know about the Renters’ Reform Bill. 

What  is the Renters’ Reform Bill?

The Renters’ Reform Bill is a piece of government legislation that details key changes to the UK lettings industry for landlords and tenants. It was announced in the Queen’s Speech, though no date has been given for the second reading and no concrete timeline for when they come into effect. A three-month consultation, which concluded in October 2019,  informed the changes on tenancy reform.

What are the primary changes? 

The end of no-fault evictions 

The government says it’s ending no-fault evictions by abolishing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Once an Assured Tenancy Shorthold (AST) expires, it goes on to a periodic tenancy. This means landlords need to give tenants two months’ notice if they wish for them to vacate the property. Currently, they don’t have to provide a reason for ending the tenancy.  

Under the new rules, landlords won’t be able to evict tenants without a valid reason for ending a tenancy. However, it is yet unclear as to what constitutes a “valid reason”. Charities such as Shelter have long called for more security for tenants, especially as the number of private tenancies in England looks set to grow beyond 11 million.

Quicker “fair” evictions

While the inclusion of no-fault evictions means landlords can’t end tenancies at will, the government is keen to make it easier for the  owner to reclaim the property if a tenant is in breach of the contract and refuses to move. 

It doesn’t detail how it will do this, but processes in the courts will be improved and provide landlords with more rights for their property. This should allow the landlord to regain possession of their property much faster than the current process allows. 

Lifetime deposits

One of the biggest bugbears for tenants surrounds deposits. The need to pay up to five week’s worth of rent can be a financial strain, especially if you’re moving to a new property but your previous deposit hasn’t been released. 

Lifetime deposits aim to create an automatic transfer of the current deposit to the new property, meaning tenants will only need to pay once. The idea of only paying for a deposit and having it transferred when they move is welcome news. Yet many still prefer deposit replacement schemes, which involve only paying one week’s worth of rent while offering landlords the exact same rights as a traditional deposit.

More transparency over rogue landlords

Tenants will have easier access to find rogue landlords and access agent databases, meaning they can make better-informed decisions about their next rental property. Much in the same way landlords will have  more power to evict negligent tenants, renters should also have access to landlords who have a toxic reputation for not providing a fair service to tenants. 

The future of letting

The government says these changes are necessary for landlords and tenants, with better security acting as the primary driver. Greater protection over being unfairly evicted for renters and more power to regain possession of a property from bad tenants for landlords, should help to create a more stable rental environment for all. The overall result will hopefully be an even more improved lettings landscape in England. 

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