The Renters (Reform) Bill | What are the concerns?
On Monday 10th July 2023, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee held an evidence session on the Renters (Reform) Bill with key Government ministers and the main landlord and tenant organisations. Here, we summarise the main concerns raised.
Supply and demand imbalance
The lack of supply of privately rented property was highlighted as the biggest single issue in the sector that the Government is currently not addressing. Recent findings from the TDS Charitable Foundation survey carried out with over 2000 tenants, showed that finding a suitable rental property has become increasingly difficult.
Lack of clarity
The Government is failing to provide clarity on several key issues, including when the Bill’s Second Reading will take place and timeframes for implementing the proposals.
There is also a lack of certainty on what the court reform will look like, what the impact of the new measures will be on the courts, and what the relationship between the court and the Landlord Ombudsman will be.In the evidence session, the Government confirmed that the reforms to improve court processes would be aligned with the removal of Section 21, and the introduction of the new possession grounds.
New eviction grounds
Concerns were expressed by one attendee that the new eviction grounds which cover where the landlord wants to sell, move in, or move family members in, could be exploited by criminal landlords to carry out illegal evictions.
To ensure tenants cannot be evicted for making a complaint after using these grounds, the landlord will not be able to put the property back on the rental market for three months. However, there was said to be little incentive for local authorities to enforce against non-compliance with this rule.
There are also concerns that the new antisocial behaviour (ASB) eviction ground may negatively impact victim-survivors of domestic abuse. As highlighted by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, domestic abuse is often misidentified as ASB. In the evidence session, the Government said that reforming the ASB ground from “likely to cause nuisance or annoyance” to “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance” is necessary because it is often difficult for landlords to evidence genuine cases of ASB. Judicial discretion will however be retained on this issue, so a judge will decide on whether eviction is reasonable in a court of law.
Indefinite tenancies in the student market
Concerns were expressed that the introduction of indefinite tenancies in the student market would detrimentally impact students’ ability to find properties. However, because students are a diverse group and are sometimes from marginalised communities, others felt that it was important they are also awarded the benefits of the end of fixed-term tenancies.
Resource implications for local authorities
The additional pressure placed on local authorities’ budgets because of the legislation was raised as a key issue. In the evidence session, the Government said they have started the process of reviewing the new burdens on local authorities. The Government was asked to consider how many more people are likely to contact their local authority because of the new legislation. The removal of Section 21 “no fault” evictions is expected to increase tenants’ willingness to escalate complaints about problems with their property. Many key organisations including TDS have argued that it is essential that the Government ensures that enforcement is properly resourced.