The Renters (Reform) Bill, which was finally introduced to Parliament on 17th May this year, had its second reading in the House of Commons on 23rd October and has now reached the Committee stage, having been reintroduced for the 2023-24 parliamentary session.
A select committee of MPs are currently carrying out an in-depth analysis and debate of all the clauses and proposals for change. They will then report back to the Commons at which time any proposed amendments can be further debated.
What changes were proposed following the second reading?
Just ahead of the second reading, Michael Gove wrote to MPs in his capacity as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to inform them that the Government will not move ahead with abolishing section 21 – probably the most significant and contentious change proposed in the Bill - until certain improvements are in place.
The biggest of these is overhauling the court system to speed up the process and, in particular, make sure cases involving rent arrears and anti-social behaviour are prioritised. Other improvements include improving the recruitment and retention of bailiffs, strengthening dispute resolution and mediation services, and giving tenants better legal advice.
Then, on 15th November, the Government published details of around 100 amendments to the Bill. Although most were clarifications and minor technical changes, here are three notable changes:
- With the proposed abolishing of section 21 and all tenancies becoming periodic, landlords of student lets were particularly concerned that their business model, which relies on being able to issue 12-month fixed-term tenancies, would be adversely affected. Although the matter of tenants being able to give just two months’ notice at any point has not yet been addressed, the Government has added a new clause that gives landlords the right to remove students if they refuse to leave after their academic year has finished.
- Students must be full-time and have been living in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) during the final semester of the academic year
- The landlord must be intending to let the property to students again
- A section 8 notice citing the new ground (4A) must expire between 1 June and 30 September in any year
It is worth noting that the Purpose Built Student Accommodation sector (PBSA) does not fall under the scope of the Renters (Reform) Bill, and PBSA landlords will therefore still be able to offer fixed-term tenancies. Even before the second reading, the Government had said Private Rented Sector (PRS) landlords would not be offered the same deal, but this is something that is likely to be reviewed in the Committee stage.
- The maximum amount tenants can claim back through rent repayment orders (RROs) has been doubled, from 12 to 24 months’ rent.
- It will be an offence for an agent or landlord to issue ‘blanket bans’ on tenants with children or in receipt of benefits. In practical terms, this may not be terribly effective in helping these people find homes, given that the excess of demand over supply will make it hard to prove that there was any discrimination on those specific grounds.
For more information on the contents of the Bill and how the proposed changes are likely to affect you as a landlord, read our blog, ‘20 things landlords need to know about the Renters (Reform) Bill’.