What Will Be in the Renters’ Reform Bill?

The Conservative manifesto included a promise to end ‘no fault’ evictions. But what exactly is going to happen? And what does it mean for landlords? 

We asked three experts for their views as the private rented sector enters a year of reform. 

A New Bill

If 2019 was the year of the Tenant Fees Act, 2020 will be the year of the Renters’ Reform Bill (RRB). The Bill is expected to contain measures to:

  • Repeal Section 21 of the Housing Act (1988)
  • Strengthen Section 8 of the same Act
  • Modernise tenancy deposits

Consultations on tenure and deposit reform were both launched last year. They closed in autumn and responses are currently being analysed.

Robin Stewart, a Senior Associate Solicitor at Anthony Gold, expects the RRB to begin passage this year. “The formal briefing document which accompanied the Queen’s speech in December 2019 contained some additional details about the Government’s plans.”

“[The Bill] will abolish section 21 notices but give landlords additional rights to recover property “where there is a legitimate need for them to do so”. That will mean adding new grounds for possession which landlords must prove when they serve a section 8 notice and then rely on this at court to try to obtain a possession order.

“The new grounds are likely to include allowing landlords to obtain vacant possession when they are selling a property. A change to ground 8, the non-discretionary ground relating to high rent arrears, to make it easier to landlords to rely on, is on the table. The Government is also considering what special rules might be needed for lettings to students, short-term lets, and other groups of landlords and tenants with particular needs.”

The Tenant Perspective

Section 21 meant that landlords could evict tenants without having to prove any grounds exist, as long as the tenancy was periodic (i.e. not within a fixed term). In practice, this meant that the minimum length of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy in England and Wales became just six months: among the shortest in Europe. 

Tenant advocacy groups like Generation Rent have argued that the possibility of eviction without grounds has caused chronic insecurity for renters. 

“[The scrapping of] Section 21 will provide tenants with much-needed security, allowing them to plan for their future and invest time in their local communities without fear of eviction,” says Caitlin Wilkinson, Policy Manager at Generation Rent. 

“By requiring landlords to prove grounds for eviction, tenants will have more trust that their landlord will respond reasonably to requests for repairs, and more confidence to treat their home as a long-term home.”

The Future of Buy to Let

The ability of lenders to swiftly possess properties has been the sine qua non of the UK’s burgeoning buy to let sector for decades. Banks can already use Section 8 to possess the property in the case of the landlord falling into severe mortgage arrears, but Section 21 evictions are seen as simpler and faster.

It’s possible, then, that lenders will be less eager to invest in buy to let loans after the RRB is passed. Perhaps because of this, it looks like lenders, including the UK’s largest banks, will lobby hard to make sure that tenants’ new rights don’t get in the way of creating land-securitised credit for landlords. 

A spokesperson from UK Finance, who represent big banks and other lenders in the UK said “A Renters Reform Bill is planned to deliver a fairer and more effective rental market. This needs to balance the rights of tenants and those of responsible landlords so that it doesn’t damage the buy-to-let market.”

If they succeed, then can the Government still claim to have ended ‘no fault’ evictions? Assuming the tenant is not in rent arrears, a landlord not paying their mortgage payments is clearly not the tenant’s fault. So if the Government is serious about ending ‘no fault’ evictions, this must also include stopping tenants from being evicted when their landlords don’t pay their mortgage. But this outcome seems quite unlikely the powerful interests aligning against it.

6 Replies to “What Will Be in the Renters’ Reform Bill?”

  1. Anyone who has been involved in the legal system regarding evicting a tenant will be fully aware of how the law is stacked totally against the landlord. I find it interesting to read the last paragraph regarding banks and mortgage lenders being able to evict tenants should the landlord fall foul of non payment if the mortgage – as quite rightly put, that would not be the fault of the tenant so surely if the tenant requires such security in having a roof provided for them, the same rule must apply and the mortgage lender should also be responsible for the tenants security of residency after all the law is the law and should be applied equally and fairly to all – no exception.

    1. Hi Maxine, some groups, such as Generation Rent, are indeed pushing for a law that, if evicted, landlords (or perhaps lenders in the case you raise) should pay the tenants’ costs for finding a new home. How much cut through this suggestion will get remains to be seeen…

  2. I explained to my tenants b4 they moved in that the tenancy would not be for more than 3 years. Still more than 2 to go. Have not yet put that in writing, but could ask them to sign something (after legal advice) confirming their agreement. Will need to sell for my own retirement. Will I be able to do this ?

    1. Hi Susan, landlords will still be able to sell properties. They almost certainly be able to use sale as a ground for section 8 evictino, too. So nothing to worry about, I’d say!

    2. Susan, you can explain as much as you like, write as much as you like and get the tenants to sign in blood and swear on the heads of their children that they will leave by a particular date, it counts for very little. You will still need to go to court to get them out and if you have made a mistake in your paperwork or breached one of the myriad rules and regulations that apply, you could find your case thrown out and being threatened with fines. The law does not sanction a tenant who promises to leave on a particular date and reneges on that promise. On the contrary, the law protects the tenant and sets a series of traps and hurdles for the landlord to get his or her property back.

      If you are lucky and your tenants are honourable then you may be OK but do not expect the law to help much.

      Needing to sell to fund your retirement will almost certainly not be a ground to get tenants out when s21 is abolished. You might be able to sell as a BTL investment but ensure that all your paperwork is in apple pie order first.

  3. I wonder how many of you know the extent to which evictions are based upon the tenant/s asking the landlord to make them homeless in order to apply for housing benefits? Further, it is certain that councils who wish to support applicants demand that the landlord makes them homeless by s21 eviction.
    Of course this will fail and the courts are full of such failures when the paperwork, especially the deposit is not handled properly. The notice provided is also often incorrect.
    PS In such cases the tenant will sit in court with the landlord and agree to whatever the landlord says about them; if this was on the tenants record then perhaps they may not be so keen in this approach.
    The upshot generally, by s21 ceasing is that the councils will need other methods to get the properties/upgrades required for their claimants.
    Remember that tenants already on benefits have more babies and need bigger homes so they need to be evicted. The landlord must go along with this or they can stop paying rent.
    Its a big business ie getting pregnant to get benefits!

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