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Proposed Rental (Reform) Bill Amendments

Posted on April 3rd, 2024 -

New proposed amendments to the Renters (Reform) Bill have been revealed. The amendments appear to be sensible solutions to a few sticking points in the original Bill.

The Government is planning to table a series of amendments to the Bill, including:

  • A requirement that tenants be unable to give two months’ notice to leave until they have been in a property for at least four months – creating a six-month tenancy by default
  • Delaying the Section 21 ban – a commitment to a full review of the courts before ending section 21 for existing tenancies
  • Allowing landlords to tailor contracts to the academic year for students
  • Cutting duplication between council licensing schemes and a new national database of rented homes where landlords must register their properties
  • Offering homelessness support from local councils to evicted tenants

We hope that the Government press ahead this side of the general election as any further delays could derail plans by this administration, possibly having serious implications to the Private rented Sector.

MPs return from their Easter recess on 15th April.

You can follow the Renters (Reform) Bill’s progress here; https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3462

 

 

Here are the proposed amendments in detail;

ESTABLISH AN INITIAL SIX-MONTH TENANCY

This balances protecting landlords’ investment, alongside ensuring tenants can still leave a property after six months if circumstances change. In effect, it creates a default fixed term of six months in all contracts and mirrors a standard break clause in many existing contracts. We are considering exemptions, such as the death of a tenant, domestic abuse, or significant hazards in the property.

REQUIRE AN ASSESSMENT OF THE COUNTY COURT POSSESSION SYSTEM BEFORE ABOLISHING SECTION 21

The Government has been clear that section 21 will be abolished when the courts are ready. We are taking significant steps to deliver court improvement, including providing £1.2m for court digitisation. We will now also bring forward an amendment to require the Lord Chancellor to publish an assessment on barriers to possession and the readiness of the courts in advance of abolishing section 21 for existing tenancies.

UNDERTAKE A REVIEW OF COUNCIL LICENSING SCHEMES

With the introduction of the new Property Portal, some landlord groups have sought reassurance that this will not duplicate the existing licensing system. We will therefore conduct a review of licensing in light of our rental reforms, to reduce burdens on landlords. This review will cover both selective licensing and licensing of HMOs.

ENSURE THE STUDENT MARKET CONTINUES TO WORK

At the Commons Committee stage, we introduced a new mandatory possession ground to facilitate student lets, allowing landlords to evict students living together in a house of multiple occupation (HMO). We have heard concerns about student households that do not meet the HMO definition. We will broaden this ground – ensuring it applies to any property that is let by students, as long as landlords give prior notice to the tenants at the start of the tenancy that the ground will apply. This aims to further protect the student market and the supply of student housing.

PROTECT THE BALANCE OF LONGER AND SHORTER-TERM LETS IN LOCAL AREAS

The Bill currently prevents landlords from marketing or re-letting properties for three months after using possession grounds to move into or sell their property. We will bring forward an amendment to close a loophole, ensuring landlords cannot turn properties into short-term lets during this period.

EXPAND HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION DUTIES

We will bring forward an amendment to give vulnerable tenants certainty that a prevention duty would be owed when they are served with a valid Section 8 notice. This will mean any household served with an eviction notice can access support from their council to help prevent homelessness.

COMMIT TO A REVIEW OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF TENANCY MEASURE WITHIN THE BILL

The Government will introduce an amendment that requires the Secretary of State to lay a statement covering the effectiveness of new possession grounds, and the effect of moving to periodic tenancies and abolishing fixed terms. This will be published within 18 months of the measures being applied to existing tenancies – following an independent review of the new system.

COMMIT IN LEGISLATION TO PUBLISH AN ANNUAL PARLIAMENTARY UPDATE ON THE STATE OF THE PRS

This will include data on the supply, size and location of properties and will be laid before Parliament in the form of a written statement.


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