Long-promised plans to abolish so-called no-fault evictions will be introduced to Parliament on Wednesday, the Government has announced.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove said the Renters’ (Reform) Bill will allow tenants to challenge poor landlords without losing their home.
A new ombudsman will be established to oversee dispute resolutions while a digital “property portal” will be set up to assist property managers in understanding their obligations, the Government said.
Renters will also be given the legal right to request a pet in their home which landlords must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse, according to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
Mr Gove said the plans represent a “new deal” with “fairness at its heart” – but critics argue reforms are “long overdue” and the Bill fails to protect tenants from rent hikes being used to circumvent the new rules.
“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,” the Housing Secretary said.
“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.”
DLUHC says its plans will affect 11 million tenants in England and two million landlords, who it claims will be more easily able to evict anti-social tenants, and the classification of disruptive and harmful activities that can lead to eviction will be broadened.
Notice periods will be reduced where renters have been “irresponsible” – for example, by breaching their tenancy agreement or causing damage to the property, according to the Government.
The Bill also seeks to make it illegal for landlords and agents to impose blanket bans on renting to benefit claimants or families with children, and applies “decent home” quality standards to the private rented sector for the first time.
Campaigners welcomed the “once-in-a-generation” announcement, but union members warned that people renting out their homes may be able to “circumnavigate” the rules by using large rent hikes to force unwanted tenants out.
Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of campaign group Generation Rent, said the legislation is a “huge opportunity” to improve the lives of tenants across England.
If you would like to share your experiences with us, you can do so here: https://t.co/tdW1cvNXoz
— Generation Rent (@genrentuk) May 16, 2023
“Abolishing (no-fault evictions) will take away much of the stress of renting and improve communication and trust between tenants and landlords. The new property portal and ombudsman have the potential to make it much harder for criminal landlords to operate.
“These reforms wouldn’t be happening without the tireless campaigning of members of the Renters Reform Coalition and thousands of renters over many years. We look forward to reading the Bill and working with ministers and parliamentarians to make sure the legislation achieves what it sets out to do.”
Michael Webb, head of policy and public affairs at Battersea Cats & Dogs Home, said tenants being unable to find anywhere to rent with their pet is a key reason why many people take their animals to the home.
“Not only will this Bill bring us one step closer to significantly reducing the number of dogs and cats we see being needlessly separated from their owners, it will also open up the many joys of pet ownership to millions of renters in the future,” he said.
Owen Sharp, chief executive of Dogs Trust, said the reforms are a “potential gamechanger” for responsible dog owners who rent.
Martin Lewis, founder of the MoneySavingExpert.com website, said he was “pleased” at the introduction of a statutory ombudsman to compel apologies and take remedial action.
It's unfair that we cannot plan for the future or speak out against mistreatment because the threat of a massive rent rise is always hanging over our heads.
— London Renters Union (@LDNRentersUnion) May 16, 2023
But Siobhan Donnachie, spokeswoman for the London Renters Union, branded the Bill “long overdue” and said “inflation-busting rent” will mean renters will still feel insecure.
“Bringing an end to the blight of no-fault evictions is long overdue. Too many families have been forced into homelessness in the four years since the Tories promised to end this cruel legislation,” she said.
“But there is nothing in this Bill banning the huge and unfair rent increases our members are facing all of the time. For the many families struggling with housing costs at the moment, a 20% rent hike is simply a no-fault eviction under a different name.
“If the Government is serious about bringing renters security in our homes, it must recognise how insecure renters feel speaking out against unsafe housing or planning for the future with the threat of inflation-busting rent increases hanging over our heads.”
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, suggested that the Bill lacks detail, saying: “Responsible landlords need to be confident that when Section 21 ends, where they have a legitimate reason, they will be able to repossess their properties as quickly as possible. Without this assurance, the Bill will only exacerbate the rental housing supply crisis many tenants now face.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, welcomed the “once-in-a-generation” opportunity but warned it must “truly deliver” change for renters when it becomes law.
Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy pointed to “years of delay” in introducing the plans, saying: “The Government first promised reform for tenants in the private rented sector over four years ago. But after years of delay, broken promises and arguments amongst themselves, the private rented sector increasingly resembles the wild west and it’s far from clear that this Government can deliver.”
The Bill delivers on a 2019 Tory manifesto pledge to scrap Section 21 no-fault evictions and follows calls from campaigners to reform the private rental sector.
It is understood it will be published in full later on Wednesday, with a second reading in several weeks.