The Renters’ Reform Bill and More Pets!

A couple of recent developments in the Lettings Sector offers more evidence of the Governments intention to make the renting experience more beneficial for tenants.

Renters’ Reform Bill

In the Queens speech on 19th December, Her Majesty outlined plans to introduce the ‘Renter’s Reform Bill which will be introduced to offer more protection for tenants.

The bill outlined 4 main areas of reform:

Abolishment of Section 21

Reform of the current Section 21 legislation by which a landlord can regain possession at the end of a tenancy by giving two months’ notice but without providing a reason. However, the Bill will also give landlords the right to gain possession of their property through the courts “where there is a legitimate need”and this is probably going to be achieved by updating Section 8 legislation.

Lifetime Deposits

The lifetime deposit would allow private renters to transfer their deposit from one property to the next thus potentially preventing tenants stuck in a loop of not being able to afford to move until they’ve received their deposit back from their current landlord.

Currently there are no details as to how the lifetime deposit will work in practice. For example, if there will be a cap and for how long it lasts and whether deposits will still be protected, and what happens if the tenant is evicted.

Rogue Database

The scope and access of the rogue landlords and property agents’ database will be expanded to improve standards and empower tenants to make an informed decision about their renting decisions. A list of rogue landlords and property agents was first introduced in April 2018 but at the moment, only local authorities can access it.

Lettings Regulation

The Bill also refers to the introduction of minimum qualifications for the lettings sector by stating the legislation will “professionalise letting agents, to the benefit of tenants and landlords”.

Again, no further information is available as yet.

So, how will the Renters’ Reform Bill become law?

As we saw with the Tenant Fees Act, the time taken for the Renters’ Reform Bill actually becoming law is anyone’s guess! After it’s initial announcement in November 2016, the Tenant Fees Act eventually came into being in July 2019 – over 31 months later.

A new Bill has to be presented before Parliament, and passed through the Commons for a number of readings and a committee stage.

Passing through the Commons will allow the Bill to proceed to the Upper House, the House of Lords, where peers will also conduct a number of readings as well as a committee stage of their own.

Easy passage for the Bill in both Houses will be followed by consideration of any amendments, before the Bill allowed to receive royal assent, before being passed into law.

An end to Pet Bans?

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, is to overhaul the model tenancy agreement to make it easier for tenants to have pets.

A surprise statement from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced on 4th January says that more young people and families than ever before are renting and should be able to enjoy the happiness that a pet can bring to their lives.

The ministry claims that currently only around 7% of rental properties are advertised as suitable for pets, meaning many people struggle to find a home suitable for themselves and their animals. Compare this to around 50% of the UK population actually owning a pet and it is easy to see the disparity.

The statement states “But the government’s model tenancy contracts for renters, which can be used as the basis of lease agreements made with tenants, will now be revised to remove restrictions on well behaved pets – to ensure more landlords are catering for responsible pet owners wherever possible”.

“The government is clear there should be a balance with responsible pet owners not being penalised and landlords being more flexible in their approach, and it is right that landlords’ properties should be protected from damage by badly behaved pets” it continues.

But it says total bans on renters with pets should only be implemented where there is good reason, such as in smaller properties or flats where owning a pet could be impractical.

Housing Secretary Jenrick adds: “Pets bring a huge amount of joy and comfort to people’s lives, helping their owner’s through difficult times and improving their mental and physical wellbeing. So, it’s a shame that thousands of animal-loving tenants and their children can’t experience this because they rent their homes instead of owning property.

“So, I’m overhauling our model tenancy contract to encourage more landlords to consider opening their doors to responsible pet owners. And we will be listening to tenants and landlords to see what more we can do to tackle this issue in a way that is fair to both.

“This is part of this new government’s mission to improve life for tenants, recognising that more are renting and for longer in life. We’ve already taken action, banning unfair letting fees and capping tenancy deposits, saving tenants across England at least £240 million a year, and I will continue to take more steps to secure a better deal for renters up and down the country.”