The Renters’ (Reform) Bill 2022-23 was introduced to Parliament on 17 May 2023.
This is a whistle stop tour of the Bill following its first reading to give a flavour of the proposals.
The Bill proposes to make substantial amendments to existing legislation. Here are the highlights:
The Housing Act 1988
– Excluding any tenancy which requires payment of rent for any period exceeding a month from the definition of an assured tenancy with a new s.4A to the Housing Act 1988.
– The abolition of assured shorthold tenancies.
– Changes to the statutory Grounds for possession.
– Changes to the way that rent is increased for both private and social renters.
– A new implied term by s.16A to the Housing Act 1988 which creates a right for a tenant to keep a pet if they ask their landlord, and the landlord must not unreasonably refuse consent. There are further provisions relating to insurance where the tenant has a pet.
– A new s.16D requirement for landlords of private tenants to give the tenant a statement of tenancy terms and notice that the landlord may wish to seek possession on various specific grounds for possession, with a statutory fine found in a new s.16F for a breach of s.16D.
New Grounds for possession of assured tenancies
Schedule 1 of the Bill proposes new statutory grounds for possession, including;
– Ground 1A – ground for sale of the house. This applies where a private landlord seeking possession intends to sell the property.
– Ground 1B – ground for sale of the house. This applies where a social landlord seeking possession intends to sell the property pursuant to a right to buy.
– Ground 2ZA – where the social landlord has itself received a notice from a superior landlord who intends to take possession.
– Ground 5A – where the private landlord needs to let the property to an employee.
– Ground 5B – where the social landlord needs to let the property to an employee.
– Ground 16 becomes Ground 5C for private and Ground 5D for social landlords, on termination of tied employment.
– Ground 5F – terminating supported accommodation because it is no longer suitable for the tenant.
– Ground 18 – terminating supported accommodation because the tenant has refused to engage in support.
– Ground 6A – terminating a tenancy to allow compliance with an enforcement order.
– Ground 8A – for repeated rent arrears where the tenant has been in two months’ arrears on 3 separate occasions.
Amendments to existing Grounds for possession of assured tenancies
– Ground 7 is extended to allow a landlord to seek possession up to 2 years after knowledge of the death of the tenant (it is currently 1 year).
– Ground 8 is amended to allow a court to take into account unpaid amounts of welfare benefits such as universal credit on the rent account.
– Ground 14 is amended to replace the words “likely to cause” with the words “capable of causing”.
New offence and financial penalty for use of certain Grounds for possession
– A new s.16G creates an offence for a landlord who serves a s.8 notice on grounds which have not been notified to the tenant in accordance with s.16D;
– There is also an option for a local housing authority to award a financial penalty as an alternative to prosecution found in s.16H. Such a penalty is regulated by matters found in a new Schedule 2ZA.
Amendments to the Protection from Eviction Act 1977
– A new s.5(1ZA) requires tenants to give no less than 2 months’ notice to the landlord of their intention to quit the premises.
– Overturning settled case law on the issue, a tenant may now withdraw their notice to quit at any date before its expiry by a new s.5A(3).
– There is also a new s.1A to the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 imposing a financial penalty to the offence of unlawful eviction, with a fine not exceeding £30,000. This is envisaged to be exercised by a local housing authority.
For private landlords only
– There is an almost completely re-worded version of s.215 of the Housing Act 2004 which deals with sanctions for non-compliance with tenancy deposits, necessitated by the abolition of assured shorthold tenancies.
– There is to be created a landlord redress scheme which each private landlord must subscribe to. This appears to be the equivalent of the Housing Ombudsman scheme to which social landlords must subscribe. There are associated offences and financial penalties for various failures to subscribe, or to follow, the scheme. The effect of this provision is to bring privately let homes into the Decent Homes standard.
– There is to be the creation of a database of private landlords, with associated provisions limiting the right to market, advertise and let residential homes if the landlord is not registered on the database. Such a database will also record banning orders, offences and financial penalties awarded against those landlords. This is referred to as the digital Property Portal.
– It appears to be intended that local housing authorities will regulate and police all of the provisions set out above, particularly in relation to offences and financial penalties for private landlords.
Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 – homelessness
– There are various proposed small amendments which will take some detailed unpicking in due course.
– The Bill requires the creation of a government policy on supported and temporary accommodation, in particular for the standards of safety and quality, and enforceability of those standards.
We hope you have found this short tour informative. We will keep you up to date as the Bill winds its way through Parliament and provide some more in depth analysis of what this means for your organisation as the Bill’s provisions are debated and crystalised.
18 May 2023