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Proposed changes to Renters Reform Bill ‘amount to very little’

Proposed changes to Renters Reform Bill ‘amount to very little’
Anna Sagar
Written By:
Anna Sagar

Last-minute amendments to the Renters Reform Bill will “amount to very little” and it is “more or less intact”, a senior executive at a rental payment specialist has said.

The Government said that a softened Renters Reform Bill will be brought to the House of Commons after the Easter break, and it “must strike the balance between delivering security for tenants and fairness for landlords”.

The proposed changes to the Renters Reform Bill include:

  • When fixed-term tenancy agreements end, tenants should be unable to give two months’ notice to leave until they have been in a property for at least four months.
  • Reviewing the operation of courts before abolishing Section 21 for existing tenants.
  • Ensuring all types of student housing, including one- and two-bed properties, are covered by the planned ground for possession.
  • Reviewing the need for local authority licensing schemes in light of the proposed property portal.

Nothing ‘particularly ground-breaking’

Neil Cobbold, Payprop’s managing director, said: “When you take a step back and look at the details, these new changes amount to very little in real terms – in fact, the bill is more or less intact.

“The Government has made some tweaks after speaking to the industry, but in practical terms, nothing substantial in the Renters Reform Bill has changed for the majority of tenants and landlords.”

He noted that while the changes were “billed as a big announcement”, there was “nothing here that is particularly ground-breaking”.

Cobbold added: “Waiting for reform of the court process before the abolition of Section 21 is something we’ve known about since the bill was introduced. What will be key is the details of this assessment, which we have been calling for since the legislation was introduced.

“The abolition of Section 21 has been a policy of every major party since the last election, so it has become a question of whether this Government will abolish it or a future one. Until Section 21 is abolished, landlords will have to think in a slightly more structured way about how they actually evict somebody.”

He said having to wait four months before you can give two months’ notice is effectively a six-month wait, which is the same time frame in place for when an eviction notice is contested.

“The only material difference here is that tenants won’t be able to treat the private rented sector [PRS] like an Airbnb lite, giving notice as soon as the tenancy begins to secure cheaper rents for a few months in a new location,” Cobbold said.

Protecting student lets is key

Cobbold added that revising legislation to protect student lets was “something almost everybody is in favour of”, and if the Government didn’t take action, there would be a “major problem for the new intake of students at the beginning of the academic year”.

“As far as the property portal removing the need for local authority licensing schemes is concerned, what the Government has announced is only a review. What the industry is keen to see is the abolition of selective licensing schemes and houses in multiple occupation (HMO) licences so there is consistency across England – although the question of how enforcement will work is less clear.

“I think these are quite balanced changes that the Government is proposing to the bill – nothing really contentious at all and certainly not a landlord’s charter, as some are claiming.”

MPs return to work after their Spring break on Monday 15 April, and the bill will be scheduled for its third reading shortly afterwards, before progressing to the House of Lords.

Related: Renters set for 13% price surge ‘over next three years’