Renters' Reform Bill: Industry reaction round-up

According to the government, the recently revealed Renters' Reform Bill will see eleven million tenants across England benefit from safer, fairer and higher quality homes thanks to a once-in-a-generation overhaul of housing laws. Here's how the property industry reacted.

Related topics:  Landlords,  Property,  Government,  Renters Reform Bill
Property | Reporter
17th May 2023
To Let 855
"The Government should not see the publication of this legislation as a job done. It should be the first step in a longer line of urgent changes that are needed."

Four years after the government first pledged to abolish Section 21 evictions, the Renter's Reform Bill finally made it to parliament this afternoon, with a second reading taking place tomorrow.

From abolishing section 21 and applying the Decent Homes Standard to properties to greater rights for tenants with pets and a new Ombudsman and digital Property Portal, there certainly is a lot to unpack and it's hard to see how the sweeping reforms won't live up to the government's claim that this scale of change within the housing space only happens once a generation.

Secretary of State for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael GoveGove, said:

“Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them.

“This government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a New Deal to those living in the Private Rented Sector; one with quality, affordability, and fairness at its heart.

“Our new laws introduced to Parliament today will support the vast majority of responsible landlords who provide quality homes to their tenants while delivering our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions.

“This will ensure that everyone can live somewhere which is decent, safe and secure – a place they’re truly proud to call home.”

As you would expect, the property industry was quick to react. Here's what they're saying.

Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns, Propertymark, comments:

“Reforms to the private rented sector in England have been long awaited and the Bill will bring much-needed clarity to letting agents, their landlords and tenants.

"Propertymark will support the UK Government to ensure the specific details work in practice for those on the ground, whilst providing both security and fairness for both parties of the rental agreement.

"It is also important implementation is well planned and managed as these reforms are significant for the sector.”

Rebecca Marsh, Property Ombudsman, The Property Ombudsman, comments:

“The Renters Reform Bill, as a package, is the most significant set of reforms for the private rented sector in a generation.

"Requiring landlords to have a reason to evict a tenant while at the same time giving them enhanced abilities to deal with anti-social behaviour, seeks to rebalance the landlord/tenant relationship.

"Underpinning this is the need to reduce court times and the introduction of a Landlord Ombudsman, both of which will play a fundamental role in ensuring these reforms work on a practical level.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the Department to help them develop a Landlord Ombudsman that not only resolves disputes but also helps tenants and landlords understand their roles and responsibilities and supports the wider regulatory landscape and the court reform.”

RICS said:

“The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors supports the government’s goal of improving tenants’ protections and the quality of homes in the private rental sector. However, we remain concerned for tenants as to any knock-on effects, as our RICS Residential Survey shows rents continuing to rise alongside the supply of rental properties dropping.

“The reforms, therefore, must be delivered in such a way that gives confidence to landlords and does not result in them leaving the sector, further exacerbating the challenges for tenants who are already struggling to find quality affordable homes.

“Landlords have stressed to RICS that proposals must be backed by process changes including an improved court process to make it easier for them to take back a property in legitimate cases. The creation of the new property portal is welcome in that it will provide both tenants and landlords with valuable information, however, it will require support from Government to get going.

“Homes of a good standard benefit all parties, and we welcome the move to improve the quality of homes in the PRS. However, we would like to see joined-up thinking between new EPC measures and decent homes so that landlords can plan for the introduction of both and tenants know what to expect.

"The delay in the introduction of new energy standards for the private rental sector demonstrates the importance of giving landlords sufficient time to prepare and undertake work.

"Surveyors have a huge role to play in this area, in ensuring that any standard can be applied consistently, providing reassurance for both landlords and tenants. We look forward to working with the government on these issues.”

Guy Gittins, CEO of Foxtons, comments:

“We are glad that today, after years of speculation, we are going to see more clarity over the current and proposed rules. Landlords have waited nervously for this bill to be published, but we feel that the impact on landlords and renters will be minimal.

“While it would seem that the ban on section 21 will give renters greater security, in practice we do not believe this will change the relationship between the vast majority of landlords and tenants. In our experience, the number of times landlords choose to evict tenants who pay rent in London properties is incredibly rare.

“The key to better regulation in the Private Rental Sector is that it’s coherent, accessible and consistently applied. We intend to engage with the government and encourage them to look carefully at this legislation in order to protect tenants’ access to decent homes while avoiding pushing more private landlords out of the rental market in the face of London’s critical need for supply.”

safeagent chief exec, Isobel Thomson, comments:

“The Renters (Reform) Bill is a major step towards driving up standards. The provision of safe, secure rented homes is something that safeagent has – and always will be – committed to achieving. We also recognise that the vast majority of landlords are doing excellent work already.

“Quality and security of tenure must come with flexibility for landlords and clarity about how new regulations will be enforced.

“Changes to the grounds for tenancy evictions and refusals, restrictions on rent increases, a new regulatory standard and landlords register all point to a huge change for the sector – particularly landlords. We need to recognise the potential risk of pushing good landlords away as shrinking supply will only undermine renters’ access to good quality homes.

“Policy must be joined up. Inconsistent, complex regulations will make it harder for landlords to know what their responsibilities are – and for agents to support them.

“Inconsistency makes enforcement harder too. While we are pleased to see the proposed strengthening of councils’ enforcement powers, local authorities will also need greater resources and clarity about how to apply them. Many of the problems around the physical condition of properties would not have arisen if current regulations had been better enforced against the minority of landlords who are uncaring.

“All this reinforces the need to proceed sensibly and collectively. Industry groups, agents, landlords, government and local authorities all need to take a seat at the table to ensure that the outcome is a meaningful change that is practical.

“safeagent is closely scrutinising the detail of the Bill to ensure the voice of agents – and their vital role in helping tenants and landlords understand their rights and responsibilities – is recognised. We will be engaging with DLUHC as the Bill progresses through parliament.”

Ian Fletcher, Director of Policy, British Property Federation, comments:

"The Renters' Reform Bill is an opportunity to create a rental sector that provides secure, high-quality homes. We have long supported many of the bill's provisions, including the landlord portal, access to an ombudsman and the introduction of the Decent Homes Standard, which support the high standards already prevalent in the build-to-rent sector.

"The abolition of no-fault evictions (section 21) needs to happen in tandem with essential court reform. While court procedures are a last resort, the reforms set out in the bill will mean that all good reasons for landlords wanting their property back will now have to go to court, and without digitalisation of the courts these proceedings will be lengthy and expensive.

"On the evidence of the past year, little progress has been made on digitalisation. As a result, the Government now needs to turbo-charge its efforts. Access to justice should also be subject to minimum service standards, as backbench MPs have called for.

"By not prescribing a minimum tenancy length the Government further risks fuelling a booming short-lets market, where holiday lets replace much-needed permanent homes, at a time when the rental market is already suffering a significant lack of supply.

"Dabbling in rent-setting is fraught with possible unintended consequences. We will be seeking to ensure that the sector's customers can budget with certainty, and landlords do not face significant additional form-filling in a digital age."

Oli Sherlock, Director at rental market expert Goodlord, comments:

“The rental sector has never been under more pressure. The ongoing delays to the publication of this Bill have caused a lot of uncertainty for the market at a time when it could ill afford it. Even now, we’re not completely clear on what the final version of this legislation will contain, but at least we have more clarity on the contours after years of speculation.

“There are really positive steps to celebrate here when it comes to tenants’ rights. And we’ve seen some softening of areas that were giving landlords major concerns - such as the ability to evict anti-social tenants or those who consistently miss rental payments. But we can’t hope to sustainably reform and strengthen the lettings industry without meaningfully addressing the structural issues facing the market.

“Right now, all the anecdotal evidence points to a rising number of landlords deciding to sell up. This, combined with a chronic lack of new rental homes being built, is creating a supply and demand issue that is driving up rental prices, creating despair for tenants seeking new homes, and resulting in market conditions which this Bill hasn’t been designed to fix.

"I think there are also valid concerns about whether the courts will be able to cope with the rise in cases this Bill will likely create, even with increased digitisation.

“The Government should not see the publication of this legislation as a job done. It should be the first step in a longer line of urgent changes that are needed. A healthy rental market requires empowered, protected tenants as well as fair-minded, incentivised landlords in order to function. Any legislation that addresses one without the other won’t make the difference it needs to.”

Tom Goodman, Managing Director at Vouch, comments:

“It’s encouraging that some of the proposals that were given landlords huge grounds for concern, such as rules around the eviction of anti-social tenants and plan to introduce periodic tenancies, have been re-evaluated. And there’s no doubt that tenants’ rights will be given a welcome boost by these reforms.

"However, lots of unknowns remain and it looks like the industry will continue to operate on a mixture of confirmation and speculation until the final version of the Bill is shared. The sooner this uncertainty can be brought to an end the better, as agents and landlords need time to understand every detail of the legislation and update their operations accordingly.”

Brendan Geraghty, CEO, UKAA, comments:

The UK Apartment Association, the representative body for the build-to-rent industry in the UK, supports considered, evidence-based regulation that sets standards and expectations for the rental sector as well as offers protection to both landlords and customers. We remain willing to engage positively with policymakers to improve the performance of the rental sector and welcome the clarity set out in the Renters’ (Reform) Bill.

“However, the UKAA stresses that BTR landlords already meet and exceed the majority of requirements of the proposed Renters’ (Reform) Bill, being introduced to Parliament today.

“Our industry’s objective is to create, maintain and professionally manage high-quality homes, in the long term, for the benefit of customers, local communities and investors. We are and will continue to set the highest standards for the BTR industry (specifically as well as supporting and encouraging the Private Rental Sector to do the same).

“The UKAA is itself leading the development of a Code of Practice for BTR operators, setting out standards of practice in terms of quality of accommodation, customer service, response to resident issues, communication, and resident well-being as well as clear and fair terms of tenancy.

“It is also worth noting that the BTR sector is adding significant numbers of much-needed, high-quality additional homes across the UK with over 82,500 new homes completed, and a further 168,400 in the planning and delivery pipeline (Savills, May 2023).

"The UKAA calls on the government to further recognise the uniqueness of the BTR proposition and do more to support the delivery of BTR homes across the UK.

“Furthermore, it is gratifying to note, as revealed in the latest Who Lives In Build to Rent report (May 2023), that BTR customers mirror the demographic and income profiles of the wider PRS demonstrating that BTR is a universal solution that can make a significant contribution in helping to solve the UK’s housing crisis.”

David Hannah, Chairman at Cornerstone Group International, said:

"The introduction of the Renters' Reform Bill has been a long time coming and I think an important measure to add to the rental market. Renters are facing record rents all across the UK with affordability still being the main obstacle for people looking to buy a property - forcing more individuals to rent for longer.

"This has caused increased demand in the rental sector, with some landlords hiking rents by up to 20% in some properties, which is effectively a no-fault eviction for renters that find themselves faced with this proposition.

“By abolishing no-fault evictions, renters will have better peace of mind and know that their landlord won't be able to evict them immediately with no reason. This should hopefully take away a lot of the stress in renting and improve the connection and communication between renters and landlords which I think is lacking in the current rental market.

“I think the rental market is filled with uncertainties at the moment, with rising rents making it less attractive from a renter’s standpoint and rising house prices making it less desirable for buy-to-let landlords to grow their portfolios. I welcome the proposed changes of the renting rules, and agree tenants need protection."

Simon Heawood, CEO, Bricklane, comments:

“The long-awaited Renters’ Reform Bill is a welcome step to ensuring that all tenants have a secure and decent home, which is the very least that the UK’s renting population deserves.

"The professionalisation of the sector is long overdue and reflects several of the commitments that Bricklane already has in place with our own residents, including long-term tenancies, homes that exceed the Decent Homes Standard and pet-friendly clauses.

"Certain details will need finessing as the Bill passes through parliament, such as clarity on how disputes, though rare occurrences, can be resolved swiftly, we consider any effort to drive a meaningful change in industry-wide renting standards to be both positive and necessary. It is a sad reality that this legislation is even required as so many individual landlords haven’t yet recognised that treating tenants well provides long-term benefits.

"It is beyond time that all households have access to a high-quality and stable home where they can feel secure. All landlords should recognise the importance of these reforms and the benefits they will provide.”

Michael Webb, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Battersea said:

“Tenants being unable to find anywhere suitable to rent with their pet is sadly one of the most common reasons people bring their animals to Battersea for rehoming. And as the rental market becomes more competitive, we can only expect it is going to get even more common.”

“Not only will the long-overdue introduction of this Bill to Parliament bring us one step closer to opening up the many joys of pet ownership to millions of renters, but it could also dramatically reduce the number of dogs and cats we see being needlessly separated from their owners due to widespread restrictive pet policies. Further still, it will help keep tenants in their pet-friendly homes for longer – undoubtedly the best outcome for renters, pets and landlords.”

“As this Bill now begins its long journey through Parliament, we look forward to continuing to work with the Housing department, and both landlords and tenants to help ensure a fairer rental sector for pets and people alike.”

Liam Monaghan, Managing Director, London Central Portfolio comments:

“The Private Rented Sector like any industry needs to have a legitimate, regulatory framework that will help raise professional standards within it. A dedicated Minister for Renting would be beneficial as there is an urgent need to regulate the rental market which in turn will help protect both private landlords and tenants.

"The abolishment of Section 21 (no-fault evictions) will of course have an impact on all private landlords and letting agents as they get to grips with the new rules. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that the promises made in their presentation to Parliament are kept and this is equally protecting both landlords and tenants. Failing to balance the argument will likely see the exit of more landlords from the PRS at a time when there is a significant supply and demand imbalance.

"The Government must accept the importance of the Private Rented Sector, and therefore landlords, to the wider economy, as an enabler of a fluid employment market, helping to boost economic growth. Further increasing rents will not help people get onto the property ladder, it will push it further away.

"Going forward with the bill, the emphasis must be on the need for all landlords to instruct an agency to stringently reference all prospective tenants through reliable proof of income and character to reduce their risk. Providing you have a good quality tenant (who pays their rent on time and looks after the property), a landlord should not need to terminate the tenancy early unless for a rational reason e.g. needing to sell or their own use.”

Sarah Bush, Head of Lettings at Cheffins comments:

“The Renters’ Reform Bill which will be introduced to Parliament today will see a number of pledges in favour of tenants’ rights. The Bill, which was first promised in 2019, includes a series of measures which will seek to provide higher quality homes within the private rented sector, while also protecting tenants from ‘no fault evictions’, and making it easier for tenants to keep pets.

"This Bill has been the elephant in the room for landlords since 2019. As always, the devil will be in the detail, however, there are a number of positives which may come out of it; finally, landlords will be getting some clarity on what new regulations will entail, enabling them to plan accordingly.

"Most importantly, this Bill should not cause widespread panic within the PRS, in fact, it should make it easier for landlords to take possession of their properties from tenants for anti-social behaviour or repeatedly missed rent payments. In addition, the new Private Renters’ Ombudsman ought to ease the costs of disputes between tenants and landlords, while the new property portal should give some clarity in terms of compliance. It is therefore not the ‘Anti-Landlord Charter’ many in the industry are making it out to be.

"Undoubtedly, we have a housing crisis. Too many homes in the sector are of poor quality and too many tenants are living in conditions which are unacceptable. However, the government needs to be careful not to penalise the large numbers of good, responsible landlords in the sector for the sake of a proportion of rogue operators.

"Landlords have come under increasing scrutiny from the government over the past decade, and as rental prices increase and stock levels fall, it is important that the PRS does not become a completely unattractive option for responsible landlords within the sector.

"Hopefully this Bill will help to level the playing field for both tenants and landlords across the country, ensure better quality housing throughout the sector and also end the fear of no-fault evictions for some 11 million private tenants in the UK. Hopefully when there is more meat on the bones of the changes afoot, both landlords and tenants will be able to operate within the sector with greater confidence.”

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