The Renters Reform Bill Finally Published

By 9 min read • May 22, 2023
A house model placed on top of a pile of books to symbolise the renters reform bill.

And some of our worst fears have been realised.

Michael Gove, when he announced that the Renters Reform Bill would be published this week said;

We are introducing new legislation and it will change the way in which the relationship between landlords and tenants work, providing tenants with new protection which should ensure that they are better protected from arbitrary rent increases”

I think that is fair to say that the anticipation of this Bill has had a profound effect on many landlords – even those who have never heard of it but have read the headlines:

“No more Section 21”

“Tenants to get more rights” 

“Landlords prevented from using No fault evictions”

“Fixed term tenancies to end”

 “Tenants to have the right to give one months’ notice at any time”  

“ Rent Control in one form or another”

The actual bill will be laid before Parliament shortly and it will then be published in its entirety, at the time of writing we have only the Government press release with broad headlines which I have covered below.

New deal for private renters published today – GOV.UK (

This is going to change the PRS and those changes need to be workable to avoid even more landlords selling up and reducing the availability of rented property which is already under so much pressure and where tenants are already struggling to find homes. Even where it looks worrying at first glance we need to find ways to make it work in order to survive.

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Let’s begin with the end of Section 21

The legal method of a tenancy makes a massive difference and not just to landlords.  Buy to Let lending began only after the introduction of Sections 8 and 21 in the Housing Act 1988 when in 1996 The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) got together with major mortgage lenders and introduced a new way to borrow money to buy property to rent in the UK.  Prior to this the options were limited to your bank, not all banks entertained this type of commercial loan, or private lending which was expensive.  Once Buy to Let loans were available the PRS grew where it had been stagnant for years and between 2000 and 2007 lending had increased from £3.9 million to £45.7 billion with buy to let mortgages increasing from 48,400 to 346,000 and the private rented sector went from housing 2.03 million households in 2000 to 4.61 by 2022 ( ) filling up a considerable amount of the gap between supply and demand.  Having a clear and simple exit strategy is important for landlords and that means having a legal system which supports those of us who need to sell to retire, to reduce debt, to pay for university fees, care, divorce and other life changes or just those of us who no longer want to be landlords/property investors. That means that a “no fault” eviction process must be available to us, not necessarily Section 21, which, to be honest, many landlords have abused and made tenants feel like that cannot put a foot wrong or they will lose their home – no one should be made to live like that. Many tenants also say “Section 21” in answer to the question why didn’t you report the disrepair, damp and mould, broken items.  That is not just a problem for tenants it is a problem for those of us who want to keep our properties in good order and to make sure that our tenants are living in nice, safe, comfortable homes and by not reporting issues at an early stage we can’t deal with them and when they are left they can become a much bigger problem and in this respect the spectre of Section 21, in its present form doesn’t help anyone therefore the loss, which has now been announced, needs to been seen in conjunction with the gains and with the proposed changes to the eviction process:

Ensuring responsible landlords can gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants and can sell their properties when they need to”

Government have said that they will introduce new grounds for possession including serious anti social behaviour, a subject close to my heart, enable us to gain possession if we want to sell up or where tenants have persistently been in arrears.  While all this is helpful it misses the point and the point is the length of time it takes to go through the legal process under Section 8 meaning that a notice served when a tenant is in 2 month arrears, which is a mandatory ground for possession, can take months and sometime almost a year to end in vacant possession, in the meantime the rent arrears are building and the landlord is unlikely ever to recover his losses.

Recognising the impact of serious antisocial behaviour, not only on landlords but on those who share an area with or live close to these people, is a major step forward and I want to see some real changes not tweaks or more buck passing and importantly, recognition that landlords are victims and have the right to the protection of the law like any other citizen and must not be expected to protect other tenants when an antisocial tenants threatens their safety. I will be very interested in the detail behind this.

The Bill and Eviction:

  • So-called ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions – that allow landlords to terminate tenancies without giving any reason – will be outlawed.
  • Ensuring responsible landlords can gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants and can sell their properties when they need to

No more fixed term tenancies

The second issue which has caused a lot of stress among landlords, particularly those who let to students, is the loss of the option to give tenants a secure fixed term which covers their tenancy beyond the statutory 6 months which every tenant has. This is another problem for both landlords and our tenants.

An example:

5 students on a joint tenancy agreement. 

All on different courses with exam dates at different times. 

Student 1 has his last exam in early May.  He decides that he can easily travel home on the day of the exam and save the rent for April (when most students have a study month), May and June.

The other 4 students have different exam dates, some have jobs and do not want to leave at the end of March.  Their tenancy is joint and when one tenant gives notice it ends the tenancy for all where there is no fixed or at the end of a fixed term.  Of course, they can speak to the landlord who also won’t want them to leave and hope that he will take the hit on one months’ rent and let the others stay but some landlords may insist that if they stay they must share the rent for the tenant who has left or find a replacement.  A real bucket of maggots right in the middle of their exams.

This doesn’t apply only to students, wherever there is a joint tenancy one tenant can end the tenancy for all where there is no fixed term, imagine 5 working people and one decides he wants to leave …… It just doesn’t work for anyone who is in a joint tenancy and I can’t understand why Government think it’s helpful.

The Bill and Tenancies

  • All tenants to be moved onto a single system of periodic tenancies, meaning they can leave poor quality housing without remaining liable for the rent or move more easily when their circumstances change. A tenancy will only end if a tenant ends or a landlord has a valid reason, defined in law

The “poor quality housing” comment is irrelevant and “vote bait”; the point is that a new tenancy will have no fixed term from day one and the tenant can give notice at any time for any or no reason, just as they can in a statutory or contractual periodic (rolling monthly) tenancy now. Its not clear what “all tenants” means, hopefully not tenancies which are in existence when the legislation is enacted. I have always released tenants from a contract if they ask to leave early because the last thing I want is a reluctant tenant but its very rare and always because of a unforeseen change of circumstances.  In the current climate tenants are very unlikely to leave a good property because finding another one is so difficult and therefore, I can’t see this being a big problem, apart from the joint tenancies which I have spoken about.

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Next up Rent Control

Rent control is not new, neither is the impact it has on the quality and supply of homes.  It was rent control which breed the slums of the early part of the last century, until the Housing Act 1980 removed the restrictions from most properties, there are now very few old “regulated rents”. With the removal of rent controls landlords had the opportunity to make money and to afford to maintain their properties and The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 gave tenants the right to expect their homes to be maintained.  And there it is – simple we need to make money from rentals in order to be able to afford maintenance. With this in mind The Local Housing Allowance rates are a form of rent control and they have been capped since April 2020.  They were already well behind commercial rents, now they are unrealistic and most tenants who are reliant on those benefits need to use other income/benefits to top up their rent in order to have a decent home. I can’t imagine a worse time to introduce control on rents when so many landlords are already struggling to meet their mortgage payments and pay HMRC perhaps we can be thankful that this is a soft version of rent control.

The Bill and Rent Control

  • Doubling notice periods for rent increases and giving tenants stronger powers to challenge them if they are unjustified
  • For the first time, ending the use of arbitrary rent review clauses, restricting tribunals from hiking up rent and enabling tenants to be repaid rent for non-decent homes. This will make sure tenants can take their landlord to court to seek repayment of rent if their homes are of unacceptable standard

Many landlords are unaware that there is a statutory notice period for rent, its currently 1 month and will increase to 2 months.  Rent Tribunals currently have the option to increase, reduce or agree a proposed rent increase if a tenant asks them to review it.  The change will mean that they lose the option to increase the rent if the proposed rent is below the area average, removing the risk for tenants. 

It will be interesting the know how the rent repayment will work presumably it will be in conjunction with the local authority and their assessment of the “decent homes” standard which is already in place for social housing (ahem!)

Other items from the announcement:

  • A new Private Renters’ Ombudsman will be created to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled quickly, at low cost, and without going to court

We can safely assume that the landlords will be paying for this Ombudsman, as do the Letting Agents under their scheme. An additional overhead but not hugely expensive if its in line with the agents’ schemes. Personally, I prefer this to a court hearing which is expensive, time consuming and often unnecessary. More reason for us to use a good admin system and keep really good records because I assume that this will be a virtual system similar to the deposit dispute systems and based on documentation.

  • Introducing a new property portal that will provide a single front door to help landlords to understand, and comply with, their responsibilities as well as giving councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue operators

The devil will be in the detail, but this could be the support that many landlords need to keep them in line with the law and prevent issues down the line when they have slipped up. This could of course mean that we need to register our properties and upload safety certificates – a simple system which could have been in place a long time ago and MAYBE negated the ‘need’ of extended licensing.

  • Helping the most vulnerable by outlawing blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits
  • Making it easier for tenants to have much-loved pets in their homes by giving all tenants the right to request a pet in their house, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse
  • Giving councils stronger powers to tackle the worst offenders, backed by enforcement pilots, and increasing fines for serious offences

There will be an amendment to the Tenants Fees Act to allow landlords to insist on a tenant having insurance against pet damage, but it is not intended to force a landlord to accept pets only to take a reasonable view before deciding and having a good reason for the decision.

“These reforms will help to ease the cost of living pressures renters are facing, saving families from unnecessarily moving from one privately rented home to another hundreds of pounds in moving costs.”

I do not know one single landlord who evicts good tenants – why would we.  Unfortunately, the huge changes in taxable allowances of finance costs and increases in interests rates have forced many landlords to sell up and yes that has meant that many families who were living a happy and settled life in a privately rented property have been asked to leave. The impact of losing your home cannot be overestimated, particular for children who often need to move to new schools and make new friends in addition to losing the only home they have known. This has made the decision to sell so much harder for many landlords and some have gone to great lengths and taken a loss in order to sell to another landlord who will keep the tenants.  We don’t hear much publicity about this, but a local estate agent told me a couple of weeks ago that he has sold most of his ex-landlords properties to other landlords and mostly with tenants in situ, he has continued to manage them and the new owners have a hands off investment.  Interestingly he said that most of his buyers are long established landlords for whom he has managed for a long time.  Speaks well for his business and for landlords who know that the tables will turn again and now is the time to grab a bargain.

The Renters Reform Bill will be introduced in the Commons and will follow the usual process through the Lords until it receives Royal Assent. This is likely to take us well into next year and during this time there will be debates and amendments and the final Act may look very different to the Bill, that is the point of the process.  This is a time for preparing and planning, don’t panic into a decision, take advice from a good property tax accountant so that you aren’t crippled with tax if you do sell. Take advice from a good Mortgage Broker, you may be able to refinance and get through this difficult time.

Whatever you decide to do I hope that it’s the right decision for you – That means understanding exactly what is going to happen and not relying on speculation from any quarter.

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