What the Renters Reform Bill means for landlords and tenants
According to the government, “The Renters (Reform) Bill will abolish section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and deliver a simpler, more secure tenancy structure. This will provide tenants with greater security, supporting them to put down roots in their community, whilst ensuring landlords remain confident that they can regain their property where they need to”. (1)
On 17 May 2023, the Renters Reform Bill was introduced in the House of Commons and received its first reading.
This will be the biggest change in the rental market for 35 years, since the introduction of Assured Shorthold Tenancies back in 1988 under the Housing Act.
When will the Renters Reform Bill come into effect?
The new reforms will be implemented in two stages which will be dependent on when Royal Assent is received, and when the court system is ready to implement the new system. We do not know when the legislation will be introduced. Keep checking our website for the latest information.
How much notice will landlords and tenants be given of the change in the rules?
At least six months’ notice will be given of the first implementation date when all new tenancies will be under the new rules.
There will then be a second implementation date not less than twelve months later when all tenancies will transition to the new rules.
What is going to change?
The Renters Reform Bill contains provisions which, if passed into law, will mean that no new assured shorthold tenancies, or fixed term assured tenancies, can be created in England. All new tenancies will be periodic assured tenancies and, subject to certain transitional provisions, all existing tenancies will convert to periodic tenancies by a specified long-stop date. The so-called ‘no-fault eviction’ procedure for terminating tenancies under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (HA 1988) will also be abolished.
The Bill will amend some of the existing grounds for possession, and insert new grounds, in Schedule 2 to the HA 1988, and change some of the notice periods that apply to different grounds. The grounds are relevant to the possession procedure under section 8 of the HA 1988.
Grounds can be either mandatory or discretionary. For mandatory grounds, judges must award possession when a landlord can evidence the ground is met. Discretionary grounds allow a judge to consider whether it is reasonable to award possession, even where the ground is met.
What does the Renters Reform Bill mean from the tenants’ perspective?
The change will mean they will not have the fear of the landlord using section 21. The landlord will have to prove a ground for eviction. There will be a register of landlords so the tenant can check landlords are compliant. It makes it illegal for landlords and agents to refuse to rent properties to people who receive benefits or have children. The Renters Reform Bill will also see the creation a national landlord register through the new property portal which will give potential tenants the information they need to make an informed choice before entering into a tenancy agreement. The tenant will receive four weeks rather than two weeks’ notice if the landlord seeks possession of rent arrears under section 8 8A or 10.
What does the Renters Reform Bill mean from the landlords’ perspective?
From the landlord’s perspective, they will have some additional mandatory grounds for possession which means, if proven, the court must make an order for possession. There will also be some additional discretionary grounds. Grounds 1 to 8 are mandatory. Grounds 9 to 18 are discretionary.
Some straightforward grounds for landlords include for example in ground 1 allowing landlords to take possession if the landlord or their spouse, civil partner or other close family member wishes to move into the property. Ground 1A in the Renters Reform Bill allows a landlord to recover possession if the landlord wishes to sell the property. This cannot be used for the first 6 months of a new tenancy. (Not available to certain social landlords).
Grounds 5A to 5G allow a landlord to recover possession if for example accommodation is provided as part of employment and the employment ends.
Ground 7A Severe anti-social behaviour / criminal behaviour Landlords can begin proceedings immediately, but the court can’t make a possession order until at least 14 days after service of a section 8 notice.
Ground 8 rent arrears of 8 weeks remains but the notice is now four (rather than two) weeks’ notice.
A new ground 8A is added for tenants with repeated rent arrears with four weeks’ notice.
For example: If rent is payable monthly, the tenant has been in at least two months’ rent arrears at least three times within the last three years.
Discretionary grounds have also been added and altered, including those around anti-social behaviour.
For example, ground 14, if the tenant or anyone living in or visiting the property has been guilty of behaviour causing, or capable of causing (rather than ‘likely to cause’), nuisance or annoyance to the landlord or anyone living in, visiting or in the locality of the property, or has been convicted of using the premises for illegal/immoral purposes, or has been convicted of an indictable offence in the locality.
In regards to the Renters Reform Bill, the government website says: In the small proportion of tenancies where court action is required, landlords will need to provide evidence to the judge that the selected ground is met.
I think the housing crisis has meant that landlords now are much more likely to need to issue legal proceedings to apply for the court for an order for possession. This is because the shortage of rental properties means tenants may not leave voluntarily as they have nowhere else to go. My understanding is that the local council may consider that the tenant has made themselves deliberately homeless if they leave a property before an order for possession is granted. This may then affect the help on offer to a tenant who finds themself homeless.
Under the current system, Section 21 allows a landlord who sets the tenancy up correctly to serve a Section 21 notice and, if necessary, issue legal proceedings for possession. The court will usually grant a possession order under the accelerated procedure, possibly by the judge making an order from examination of the papers without a hearing. Alternatively, a landlord can use one of the grounds in section 8 if they can prove the tenant is at fault (for example for nonpayment of rent).
Under the new proposals in the Renters Reform Bill, the (“no-fault”) eviction procedure under section 21 will be removed. The landlord will have to prove the tenant’s default to obtain an order for possession. As I understand the position, the accelerated procedure is not available in the RRB. This means obtaining evidence, drafting, and serving the notice correctly. If legal proceedings are required, the landlord will also need to draft the court papers, and presumably serve a witness statement or statements and possibly additional evidence to prove the ground for possession and attend a hearing. Depending on the ground for possession this could be time-consuming, complex, and costly.
An example referred to on the Government website indicates that a landlord applying for possession under ground 1A, because they want to sell the property, might provide evidence to the court they have instructed an estate agent and solicitor.
It remains to be seen if the proposed legislation will simplify the process of obtaining a court order for possession against a tenant who is in breach of their tenancy agreement. It also remains to be seen whether the RRB encourages more landlords to enter the buy-to-let market which will give tenants more choice in the rental property market.
If you are a residential landlord or tenant and need advice related to the Renters Reform Bill, or any other legal issue, then call 01752 203500 or email me directly via neale.crump@GAsolicitors.com.
I am an experienced landlord and tenant solicitor in Plymouth and can offer clear and effective legal advice to protect you and your assets.
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- Quote from the GOV.Uk website https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tenancy-reform-renters-reform-bill