The Government have today published their White Paper “A fairer private rented sector”.
The private rented sector currently offers the most expensive, least secure, and lowest-quality housing to a growing number of vulnerable people, including 1.3 million households with children and 382,000 households over 65. This is driving unacceptable outcomes and is holding back some of the most deprived parts of the country.
Many renters face a lack of security as they can be evicted without a reason at just two months’ notice (so called “no fault” section 21 evictions, under the Housing Act 1988). This means many tenants do not challenge their landlords or agents on standards. Renters also feel that they cannot put down roots in their local areas, which does nothing for community cohesion.
The system does not work for good landlords either, the majority of whom do right by their tenants and offer them a positive, secure living situation. They lack the ability to effectively tackle antisocial behaviour or deliberate and persistent non-payment of rent. Most landlords are trying to do the right thing but simply cannot access the information they need. Further, inadequate enforcement is allowing criminal landlords to thrive, which harms tenants and reputable landlords.
The A Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper builds on the vision in the Levelling Up White Paper and sets out our plans to fundamentally reform the private rented sector and level up housing quality in this country. It sets the strategic direction for the PRS for the first time in a generation and demonstrates our ambition and determination to give private renters a better deal.
The White Paper sets out a 12-point action plan of how we will deliver a fairer, more secure, higher quality private rented sector:
Safe and decent homes
The PRS has some of the worst housing of all tenures. We will improve this by:
Delivering on our levelling up housing mission and require privately rented homes to meet the decent homes standard for the first time. This will give renters safer and better value homes and the blight of poor-quality homes in local communities.
Accelerating quality improvements in the areas that need it most. We will run pilot schemes with a selection of local authorities to explore different ways of enforcing standards and work with landlords to speed up adoption of the decent homes standard.
Increased security and stability
For too long tenants have felt powerless and unable to challenge poor practice. We want to change this. We will rebalance the law to deliver a radically fairer deal for renters, while making sure that landlords can regain possession of their property when needed. We will achieve this by:
Delivering on our manifesto commitment to abolish section 21 “no fault” evictions and introducing a simpler, more secure tenancy structure. A tenancy will only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession, empowering tenants to challenge poor practice and reducing costs associated with unexpected moves.
Reforming grounds for possession to make sure that landlords have effective means to gain possession of their properties when necessary. We will expedite landlords’ ability to evict those who disrupt neighbourhoods through antisocial behaviour and introduce new grounds for persistent arrears and sale of the property.
Improved dispute resolution
Tenants and landlords need structures in place that allow them to resolve disputes efficiently and fairly. We will deliver on this by:
Only allowing increases to rent once per year, ending the use of rent review clauses, and furthering tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases through the first-tier tribunal to support people to manage their costs and to remain in their homes.
Strengthening tenants’ ability to hold their landlord to account and introduce a new single ombudsman that all private landlords must join. This will provide fair, impartial, and binding resolution to many issues and be quicker, cheaper and less adversarial than the court system.
Working with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to target the areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings. We will also strengthen mediation and alternative dispute resolution to enable landlords and tenants to work together to reduce the risk of issues escalating.
Better compliance and robust enforcement
Landlords, tenants, and local authorities need access to the right information and, for local authorities, the right powers, to crack down on poor practice. We will deliver this by:
Introducing a new property portal to make sure that tenants, landlords and local authorities have the information they need. The portal will provide a single “front door” for landlords to understand their responsibilities, tenants will be able to access information about their landlord’s compliance and local councils will have access to better data to crack down on criminal landlords. We also intend to incorporate some of the functionality of the database of rogue landlords, mandating the entry of all eligible landlord offences and making them publicly visible (subject to consultation with the Information Commissioner’s Office).
Strengthening local councils’ enforcement powers and ability to crack down on criminal landlords by seeking to increase investigative powers and strengthening the fine regime for serious offences. We are also exploring a requirement for local councils to report on their housing enforcement activity and want to recognise those local councils that are doing a good job.
A positive renting experience
We want to improve the experience of everyone who rents in the private rented sector and will:
Legislate to make it illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits and explore if action is needed for other vulnerable groups, such as prison leavers. We will also improve support to landlords who let to people on benefits, which will reduce barriers for those on the lowest incomes.
Give tenants the right to request a pet in their property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. We will also amend the Tenant Fees Act 2019 so landlords can request that their tenants buy pet insurance.
Work with industry experts to monitor the development of innovative market-led solutions to passport deposits. This will help tenants who struggle to raise a second deposit to move around the PRS more easily and support tenants to save for ownership.
We have already taken significant action to improve private renting, including significantly reducing the proportion of non-decent private rented homes, banning tenancy fees for tenancy agreements signed after 1 June 2019, and introducing pandemic emergency measures to ban bailiff evictions—these reforms will finish the job that we started in 201—and deliver a fairer private rented sector.
We have also today published the Government response to the 2019 consultation “A new deal for renting” that sets out how the new tenancy regime will work once section 21 evictions are abolished, the Government response to the “Considering the case for a Housing court: call for evidence”, and the Government response to the 2019 “Tenancy deposit reform: a call for evidence”. We will be depositing copies of these documents in the Library of the House.
We will deliver on these reforms in the forthcoming parliamentary Session, which will drive real change and make the private rented sector fit for the 21st century. These reforms will apply to England only.