Renters Reform Bill: Second Reading
The second reading of the Renters Reform Bill took place yesterday, Monday 23rd October, furthering the bill into the Committee Stage. As is common at this stage, no vote was taken. The bill is to undergo further scrutiny at a later stage.
The debate was opened by Michael Gove, Housing Secretary, addressing the necessity of balancing tenant and landlord needs. He has committed to regulating student housing, acknowledging the problems that the existing bill would present to the market. Further to this, a commitment to strengthening provisions under Section 8 was promised. These provisions include lowering the threshold to prove antisocial behaviour and allowing regain of possessions where necessary. Michael Gove also iterated the commitment to the removal of Section 21 in attempts to prevent landlords intimidating tenants and silencing complaints. Section 21 currently allows landlords to give two months’ eviction notice without reason, something that Conservative’s promised to end in their 2019 manifesto.
The mention of Section 21 raised concerns over the judicial system as the courts need to be made fit for purpose before it can be abolished. This is a point that Gove had made in a letter to the Select Committee on Housing over the weekend. However, the potentially lengthy court reforms will cause a significant delay to the abolition, as it cannot commence until these have been completed. Labour is clear in its plans to push for measures beyond that of the bill, listing the expansion of rent repayment orders, outlawing blanket bans on landlords accepting tenants with children or those who are in receipt of benefits and amending possession grounds in order to protect tenants from no fault evictions.
However, it is not all bad news for landlords. Michael Gove has recognised that majority of landlords “provide a good service” stating that “it is also important that we provide them [Landlords] with the rights to redress required when dealing with antisocial tenants, tenants in arrears or other factors that may mean that they need to have recourse to securing vacant possession of a property” highlighting how he is still very much taking landlords rights into consideration. It seems that the ideal outcome of the bill is not to scrutinise the majority of landlords but, with the introduction of a property portal and the Ombudsman, to crack down on the minority of bad landlords in attempts to push them out of the market. Furthermore, the recent scrap of EPC ratings, requiring landlords to have an EPC rating of at least C by 2028, means that landlords no longer have to invest to raise the standard of their properties. Whilst some landlords may feel unfair treatment in the case that they have already invested, it may well be worth it anyway in order to increase competitiveness within the market.
Fundamentally, much more needs to be done to get the balance right for landlords, agents and tenants. Failure to take the impact and consequences of the abolition of Section 21 into account could be detrimental for the private rental sector particularly due to the current demand crisis. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall be bought to a conclusion on Tuesday 5th December 2023.