Renters (Reform) Bill clears House of Commons despite Section 21 uncertainty

Renters (Reform) Bill clears House of Commons despite Section 21 uncertainty

10:09 AM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago 22

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The Renters (Reform) Bill has passed its final stage in the House Of Commons and is now heading to the House of Lords.

The latest debate on the Renters (Reform) Bill saw various MPs try to pressure the government into giving a date for the end of Section 21 – but it declined to do so.

Instead, it wants the Lord Chancellor to report on the ability of the county courts to deal with evictions.

In his opening statement to the House, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Housing, Jacob Young, said: “A system that does not work for landlords will not benefit tenants – and a system that doesn’t benefit tenants won’t benefit landlords in the long run either.”

He also promised an end to the ‘deeply unfair blanket bans’ of landlords not renting to those with children or those receiving benefits.

Mr Young told MPs: “We have been clear that Section 21 will be abolished when we are confident that the county court system is ready, and we are taking significant steps to ensure this.

“An efficient court system is critical to ensure confidence in the new system.”

The Lord Chancellor will need to prepare an assessment of the possession proceedings for rented properties – and it will be published before Section 21 can be abolished.

Oli Sherlock, managing director of insurance at Goodlord, said: “The Renters (Reform) Bill involves much more than the abolition of Section 21 eviction notices. However, it was the main topic of conversation again in Parliament. Although it is imperative for the county courts to have the resources they need to cope with the upcoming changes, the lack of detail around when and how the money to pay for this will be provided is disappointing.”

EPCs being part of the new Decent Housing Standard

Landlords may also be concerned about an intervention by Sheffield MP Clive Betts about EPCs being part of the new Decent Housing Standard.

Mr Young did not give a clear reply but did hint that EPCs would indeed be part of the proposed standard.

The minister laid out what the other new amendments will bring:

  • Notice to quit cannot expire in the first six months of a tenancy – unless the landlord agrees it can expire sooner to help with the costs of replacing the tenant. After six months, the tenancy will become periodic, and tenants will only have to give two months’ notice. Mr Young says this will give ‘landlords the confidence they need to operate in the PRS’. He then revealed the government is exploring exemptions to this rule, including the death of a tenant or domestic abuse or significant hazards within the property.
  • When a valid Section 8 notice is served, the council will have an obligation to prevent homelessness – councils will get more funding to help with this.
  • Councils should not ‘consider it reasonable’ for a homeless applicant to remain in the property until a court issues a bailiff warrant or writ to enforce a possession order. Mr Young said that he has heard about councils offering blanket advice for tenants to stay put ‘but that is wrong’, he said. He added: “Doing so creates further delays in possession, penalises landlords who have a legal right to their property and it can be stressful. In the long run, it’s not beneficial to the tenant. The guidance is clear, and authorities must contact landlords to understand the circumstances of the eviction and establish what steps can be taken to prevent homelessness.” The government will spend £1.2bn over the next three years to help prevent homelessness
  • When a landlord moves back into their property, they cannot relet it for short-term holiday lets for three months following use of the new grounds – this will close a loophole, MPs heard.
  • The government amendments to the possession grounds for students that will extend to single, pairs and larger groups in HMOs – but the landlord must notify the student tenants in the agreement that they will all be evicted on a given day.
  •  Help resolve disputes between landlords and tenants more quickly, with a new Private Rented Sector Landlord Ombudsman.
  • Apply and enforce the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time, so that everyone has a safe and decent home.
    •  Give tenants a legal right to ask to have their pets in their home.

The property portal and the role of selective licensing

Mr Young also addressed concerns regarding the property portal and selective licensing.

He said: “I am also aware that several members have raised concerns about the interaction between the property portal and the role of selective licensing. The two systems have distinct purposes.

“The portal will gather data on the PRS, ownership and property standards in England and provide information for local authorities with an insight into the PRS in their area, help landlords understand their legal obligations and help tenants make informed choices.

“Selective licensing provides local housing authorities with the power to license privately rented properties in a designated local area to address specific local issues including housing conditions, high levels of anti-social behaviour or crime.

“Whilst there will be overlap with the data gathered for the property portal, information available for licenses will be specific to that area for the issues being tackle and support more intensive enforcement action where it’s needed most.”

Date to abolish Section 21

Labour’s shadow housing spokesman, Matthew Pennycook, criticised the government for not committing to a date to abolish Section 21.

He said the ‘Conservative discord and public wrangling’ means that thousands of tenants have been served section 21 notices since the Bill began.

He said that the original Bill’ struck the right balance’ but the latest version has suffered with ‘grubby horse-trading’ with backbench MPs.

Mr Pennycook added: “The Bill will go to the House of Lords far weaker than it needs to be, and is in danger of being fatally compromised.”

A number of pro-tenant groups have criticised the government for delaying Section 21 evictions and have said they can no longer support the Bill in its current form.

Housing charity Shelter said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter: “Following the Third Reading of the Renters Reform Bill it’s become clear Shelter cannot support this version of the Bill. Renters have campaigned tirelessly for a Bill that will genuinely protect them. This Bill is not it.

“To deliver meaningful change for England’s 11 million renters, the government must overhaul this threadbare Bill. Right now, renters will remember nothing but broken promises at the ballot box.”

However, in a statement issued by the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities they insisted Section 21 will be abolished when the courts are ready.

The statement said: “Some coverage has inaccurately suggested we are watering down our commitments on abolishing section 21 notices – or no-fault evictions. Abolishing section 21 notices is a manifesto commitment and we have been very clear that we will end these no-fault evictions as soon as possible.

“We have always said that we will give six months’ notice before ending section 21 tenancies to give the sector some time to implement these changes. And we have now committed to making sure the county court system time had to adjust to the new possession processes, with an assessment of the county courts to ensure they are ready for these changes.”

Watch the video below to see Jacob Young MP go through the various amendments to the Bill.


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Comments

Cider Drinker

10:31 AM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

Anybody, especially an elected MP, that wants to introduce a system that cannot be ‘accommodated’ by the capacity of the Courts isn’t worthy of public office.

Beaver

11:02 AM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

I think it will be very hard to judge this bill until we see the final shape of it. I’m not convinced though about including EPCs in the decent homes standard. Neither the current EPCs nor the system they rely on is reliable. Telling a tenant they can’t rent a band E property or telling a landlord he can’t let it is only restricting choice and it benefits nobody. It would be better to have a system that gave a reliable assessment of a property’s performance and EPCs that could be challenged by the landlord with facts, data, measurements etc. then let the market and competition sort that out. Logically then lower efficiency properties would achieve a lower market rent and higher efficiency properties would cost more.

Sheralyne Stamp

11:16 AM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

The whole issue is a mess, the traditional saying (if things are not broken don't try to fix it )
Both parties are as bad as each other so who do you vote for in the upcoming election? I just wish these politician's would listen to the landlords and get their side of the situation rather than listening to charities, organisations. they need to be in the real world and see for themselves. They always base their surveys on big cities which is wrong .

Sheralyne Stamp

12:14 PM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

Please can someone advise on the Notice to quite quote within MPs discussions.
Notice to quit cannot expire in the first six months of a tenancy – unless the landlord agrees it can expire sooner to help with the costs of replacing the tenant. After six months, the tenancy will become periodic, and tenants will only have to give two months’ notice. Mr Young says this will give ‘landlords the confidence they need to operate in the PRS’. He then revealed the government is exploring exemptions to this rule, including the death of a tenant or domestic abuse or significant hazards within the property.

yes the notice to quite is not for assured shorthold tenancies which is the most commonly used. So nothing has changed unless I am reading this wrong.

Most tenancies in the private rented sector are assured shorthold tenancies. These agreements can be ended by the landlord serving a Section 8 or Section 21 notice. These are notices seeking possession meaning the tenancy does not end on the expiry of the notice and therefore the rent continues to be due. Instead, these notices give the landlord the right to apply to court for a possession order to end the tenancy.

However, where your tenancy is not an assured or assured shorthold tenancy then it is likely to be a non-assured or common law tenancy instead.

These tenancy agreements grant the occupiers with 'basic protection' meaning that you can only enforce the end of the tenancy via a court order. If the tenancy is periodic you will also have to provide sufficient notice to end the agreement before you can apply for this court order.

To provide sufficient notice you will need to serve a notice to quit rather than a Section 21 or Section 8 notice.

NewYorkie

12:22 PM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

Oh dear, Shelter can't support this Bill. Who cares? You're not elected to make these decisions. Get back to not housing anyone.

Dave the Rave

12:49 PM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

If the courts are able to operate efficiently, and deal with Section 8 evictions in a timely manner, I for one will be very pleased. I lost £15k last year due to inefficient courts.

My biggest take-out from the above aticle is:

Councils should not ‘consider it reasonable’ for a homeless applicant to remain in the property until a court issues a bailiff warrant or writ to enforce a possession order. Mr Young said that he has heard about councils offering blanket advice for tenants to stay put ‘but that is wrong’, he said. He added: “Doing so creates further delays in possession, penalises landlords who have a legal right to their property and it can be stressful. In the long run, it’s not beneficial to the tenant. The guidance is clear, and authorities must contact landlords to understand the circumstances of the eviction and establish what steps can be taken to prevent homelessness.”

Finally, the Councils will not be working in cahoots with the non-payers and instead will have an onus to use their emergency accommodation money better and possibly more efficiently, by covering the tenant's current accommodation contract. Still, I won't hold my breath!

Reluctant Landlord

13:56 PM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Dave the Rave at 25/04/2024 - 12:49
IF THE COURTS.....this is the BIGGEST concern all LL's should have more than anything else. If a possession ends up in court this HAS to be swiftly dealt with. If it is not timely it is pointless. Court delays ONLY cause issues for the person seeking possession so that's legal discrimination right there. The Law can't say you have a right to do something then not allow you to carry this out in a set timescale.

I raised my eyebrows when I heard this too...but...however 'unreasonable' and 'wrong' it is, it still means legally they don't have to offer a tenant alternative accommodation before you have to go through the whole process and end up sending the bailiffs in. Of course there is no financial recourse open to a LL either if that is what happens.

As the AST is with you and the tenant (and not the council) and costs/delays additional missed rent etc can only be chased from tenant, and as we all know if they are on benefits you have no chance....

Stella

16:19 PM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by NewYorkie at 25/04/2024 - 12:22
Shelter should be happy.

They are getting rid of section 21 and Is this not what they have been bleating about?

Yellard

16:58 PM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Sheralyne Stamp at 25/04/2024 - 12:14
I am sure we know all what u said.. But where where are "no fault evictions"? There is no such thing .. If a tenancy has eecoirrd abd a Section 21 Notice has been ignored, tyd tenant is at fault in not leaving..
It may be, in a tiny minority of cases, that some slum landlords abuse fixed term tenancies.. But why don't Give, Shelter, Generatiin Rant, say that? Why don't they say "we believe fixed term tenancies must be replaced by tenancies for life as a (very) small minority of landlords abuse fixed term tenancies"... They don't because their real objective is the introduction of rent controls and fixed term tenancies prevent rent controls. That rent controls work against the interests of tenants is well known by the likes of Mayor Khan and the leaders of Shelter and Generation Rant. They can't be so stupid as to not know. They are just cynical self
serving popularists..

NewYorkie

17:16 PM, 25th April 2024, About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Stella at 25/04/2024 - 16:19
They wanted it now but haven't managed to get their own way.

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