A FAIRER PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR (link will take you to the document)
This is the title of the government white paper on rental reform published on 16 June 2022.
Headline points include:
· Written tenancy agreements will be required. The ‘old’ system of a verbal agreement will no longer be acceptable. Anyone who has completed a Section 21 notice recently will know that the written tenancy agreement is required before court action.
A new tenancy agreement will be produced for the use of CRLA members as soon as all new requirements are identified.
· All tenancies will be periodic in the future, with tenants having to provide 2 months notice to leave. To make this clear, there will be no minimum six month tenancy and landlords will need to budget accordingly.
The landlord will only be able to give the tenant notice to leave the property under certain circumstances, e.g. if they intend to sell or move family members into the property.
· Section 21 Notice is to go. There will be 6 clear months notice before this is applied to new tenancies.
· Section 8 Notice will be changed, giving new grounds for possession, keeping some existing grounds and changing others. Some of the changes include:
· A new persistent arrears ground (mandatory). This is in addition to ground 8 which will remain mandatory.
· New grounds for property sale.
· The grounds for moving in, or moving a family member in will be strengthened.
· The notice period for ground 7a (anti social behaviour) will be shortened, but there is as yet no detail on exactly how the government will deal with anti social behaviour
· There is not currently a student specific ground, but purpose build accommodation will be excluded
· A Property Portal will be held by government where tenants and others will be able to view basic details about landlords and the properties they let, including how a property complies with standards.
· Landlords will be required to belong to a redress scheme operated by a single Ombudsman who will be appointed to manage where there is a conflict between landlord and tenant, for example where there is an allegation of disrepair. The Ombudsman will have powers to put things right, including requiring landlords to take action to put something right, issue an apology, provide information and provide compensation. Use of the Ombudsman will not prevent tenants from also using the local authority or the Court system to remedy breaches.
· There will be no legislation regarding lifetime deposits although this will be kept under review.
· There will be a ban on ‘No DSS’ adverts, but in practical terms landlords will continue to be able to accept or refuse based on merit/ability to pay. Do not pre-judge the tenant, It will be illegal for landlords to restrict who can view properties based on their benefit status.
This highlights the importance of referencing your tenant and/or guarantor. Contact the CRLA for assistance with this.
· The Tenant Fees Act will be amended to allow for pet damage insurance
· The decent homes standard as prescribed for social housing will be extended to include the private rental sector. This requires that a property meets four criteria:
· It meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing
· It is in a reasonable state of repair
· It has reasonably modern facilities and services
· It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
Hopefully this standard will be amended as it is not suitable for the private rented sector as currently regulated. The simple fact that this is an arbitrary standard is shown by the fact that the vast majority of queries from tenants regarding disrepair actually come from those who rent from social landlords.
· Court reform. There will not be a housing court but administrative reforms are planned. New simplified and streamlined court forms are proposed together with a new on-line procedure.
· Rent increases will require the use of the Section 13 process (already on the CRLA website, and any update will be reflected there) and will only be permitted once a year.
· Tenants will have a right to request a pet in their property, which the landlord must consider and not unreasonably withholding consent. To mitigate any concerns about pets, the landlord may ask the tenant to take out pet insurance. The Tenant Fees Act will be amended to permit this cost to the tenant.
Reasons for not permitting pets are not made clear but these could include:
· Allergies affecting the landlord, agent or other tenants in the property.
· Properties not being suitable for the welfare of the pet.
· Concerns that the unsavoury tenant may bring in an aggressive pet.
· If a pet is permitted the landlord must act pro-actively if there are any complaints from neighbours regarding noise, smells and other issues
A positive side to letting to tenants with pets is that they are more likely to remain in the property long-term, thus reducing void periods.
Not mentioned but be aware, the How To Rent Guide will need to be updated. The requirement to provide this document to all new tenants is not likely to change
What is still unclear, at least to me:
· What will happen with existing tenancy agreements? Will they need to be replaced?
· What, if any, provision will there be for the ‘mildly’ antisocial tenant, the type who makes life a misery for fellow tenants in the HMO?
· Landlords who let to students will need clear guidance on tenancies, both length and security
· What will be the position regarding loss of Section 21 on older tenancies? Will there be a phasing out of the use of that Notice or a date given after which the Section 21 may not be used.
All existing legal requirements pre-letting will remain:
· Be fit for human habitation
· Meet minimum energy efficiency standards (currently EPC rating E but watch for changes to that standard)
· Have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors where appropriate; basically any room where there is use of a fossil fuel other than the kitchen
· Have a gas safety certificate where mains or bottled gas is supplied.
· Have an electrical installation condition report.
· If a council inspection uncovers a serious hazard, it must be rectified.
These are just initial thoughts on reading the document and more concerns may come to mind. Members are asked to raise concerns and considerations with Ruth Clarke and with their local MP.