Councils have welcomed publication of the Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper including the proposed outlawing of ‘no-fault’ section 21 evictions but called on the Government to go further in tackling insecure and unfit housing.
Other measures in the white paper highlighted by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) include:
- Outlawing blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.
- 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.”
- Giving all tenants the right to request a pet in their house, “which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse”.
- Moving all tenants to 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.
- Doubling notice periods for rent increases and giving tenants stronger powers to challenge them if they are unjustified.
- Giving councils stronger powers to tackle the worst offenders, backed by enforcement pilots, and increasing fines for serious offences.
The Department also said private landlords would have greater clarity and support through the following measures:
- Creation of a new Private Renters’ Ombudsman “to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled quickly, at low cost, and without going to court”.
- Ensuring responsible landlords can gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants and can sell their properties when they need to.
- Introduction of 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 Department said: “The majority of tenants enjoy safe and secure rentals, but for the 21% of private renter and households who currently live in unfit homes, this ‘New Deal’ will extend the Decent Homes Standard to the private sector for the first time, levelling up opportunities. This means homes must be free from serious health and safety hazards, and landlords must keep homes in a good state of repair so renters have clean, appropriate and useable facilities.”
The measures will form part of the Renters Reform Bill, to be introduced in this parliamentary session.
Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “For too long many private renters have been at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who fail to repair homes and let families live in damp, unsafe and cold properties, with the threat of unfair ‘no fault’ evictions orders hanging over them.
“Our New Deal for renters will help to end this injustice by improving the rights and conditions for millions of renters as we level up across the country and deliver on the people’s priorities.”
Responding to the announcement of the white paper, Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “We are pleased that the Government has committed to introducing legislation through the White Paper to increase the rights of tenants and enable them to better hold their landlord to account.
“Removal of ‘no-fault evictions’ is a key step towards increased protection for private renters and will allow renters to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of eviction. It will also be important that landlords are able to get their properties back in a timely fashion where they have a valid reason to do so.
“Commitment to extending a legally binding Decent Homes Standard to improve conditions in the private rented sector is positive. This reform should be implemented quickly, and it is vital that councils are sufficiently resourced, through new burdens funding, to support the implementation of the standard.”
Cllr Renard added: “To go even further towards tackling insecure and unfit housing, we would like to see a review of Local Housing Allowance rates, and councils to have stronger selective licensing powers by removing the requirement for Secretary of State approval for larger schemes.
“Councils want their residents to have the security of a safe and well-maintained home with any issues quickly and satisfactorily addressed, and we are pleased to see the introduction of a new Private Renters’ Ombudsman to help settle disputes.”
The London Councils group also welcomed the measures set out in the white paper. It said it particularly supported moves to ban unfair evictions and to apply the Decent Homes Standard in the private rented sector.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning, said: “These reforms will undoubtedly be good news for London’s two million private renters.
“Boroughs are especially pleased by the inclusion of a ban on no-fault evictions. Too often we’ve seen Londoners turfed out of their homes for no good reason and made homeless. With 155,000 homeless Londoners – including 86,000 children – currently living in temporary accommodation arranged by their local borough, we hope this ban will improve stability for tenants and go some way to alleviating homelessness pressures in the capital.”
Cllr Rodwell added: “We will continue to push for action on addressing London’s severe housing crisis. Councils now need strong enforcement powers and resources to help ensure any changes in the law actually succeed in helping tenants and boosting standards in the private rented sector.
“And with affordable accommodation in such short supply in the capital at a time when so many Londoners are struggling with the cost of living, we also hope the government will take further measures to help low-income tenants keep paying their rent and avoid becoming homeless.”