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 2 months 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

DEVAM SUKHIJA

19:31 PM, 28th April 2024, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Cider Drinker at 25/04/2024 - 10:31
Shafted by all sides. This may also result in the return of the company lease . Only corporates students or pristine credit will get rentals ….what a bunch of idiots these people are for not having the sense to see the consequences

NewYorkie

19:42 PM, 28th April 2024, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by DEVAM SUKHIJA at 28/04/2024 - 19:31
Blinded by ideology!

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