Rental reform White Paper: what new powers will tenants in private rental sector have under Government plans?

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The plans, unveiled by Michael Gove, would give tenants more power to tackle practices like unjustified rent increases

Plans have been unveiled to create a fairer private rental sector in England - and under the new proposals tenants would have more power to challenge landlords.

A White Paper from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities outlining the plans was published on Thursday.

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The measures will form part of the Renters Reform Bill, as announced in the Queen’s Speech, to be introduced in this parliamentary session.

But what changes would be made to the private rental sector and how would they benefit tenants? Here’s what you need to know.

New plans have been unveiled to create a fairer private rental sector.New plans have been unveiled to create a fairer private rental sector.
New plans have been unveiled to create a fairer private rental sector. | Getty Images

What new powers would the plans give to tenants?

The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper marks a generational shift, according to the Government, which will redress the balance between landlords and the millions of privately renting households across England.

Under the proposals tenants will have stronger powers to challenge poor practice and unjustified rent increases and they could also be saved the expense of having to move as often from one rented home to another.

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It will also be made illegal for landlords or agents to place blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.

“No fault” Section 21 evictions that allow landlords to terminate tenancies without giving any reason will be outlawed.

The measures in the white paper 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
  • Making it easier for tenants to have pets in their homes by giving all tenants the right to request a pet in their house, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse
  • All tenants to be moved onto 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

More than a fifth of private renters who moved in 2019 and 2020 did not end their tenancy by choice, the Government said.

A new Private Renters’ Ombudsman would also be created under the proposals to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled quickly, and at a relatively low cost, without having to go to court.

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Measures will also help responsible landlords to gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants, the Government said.

A new property portal will help landlords to understand, and comply with, their responsibilities as well as giving councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue operators.

How many people currently privately rent?

Currently there are around 4.4 million privately renting households across England. The sector has been growing in recent years.

A range of households, including families with children, are now living in the sector. For many it is providing long-term rather than short-term accommodation.

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Michael Gove.Michael Gove.
Michael Gove. | Getty Images

What has been said about the plans?

While the majority of private rented homes are of good quality, offering safe, comfortable accommodation for families, the conditions of more than half a million properties pose an imminent risk to tenants’ health and safety, according to the Government.

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.”

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “Without proper safeguards we could still see thousands of tenants facing the hardship of unwanted moves, and more staying quiet about disrepair out of fear of a retaliatory eviction.

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“If the Government can get the detail right and give tenants the confidence they need to request improvements and plan for the long term, this legislation has the potential to improve the lives of millions throughout England.”

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said: “Whilst headline commitments to strengthening possession grounds, speedier court processes and mediation are helpful, the detail to follow must retain the confidence of responsible landlords, as well as improving tenants’ rights.

“We will be analysing the Government’s plans carefully to ensure they meet this test. A failure to do so will exacerbate the housing crisis at a time when renters are struggling to find the homes they need.

“The eventual legislation needs to recognise that government actions have led to a shortage of supply in the sector at a time of record demand. It is causing landlords to leave the sector and driving up rents when people can least afford it.”

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