A fairer private rented sector - a new white paper, that paves the way to the abolition of Section 21 "no fault" evictions

Protecting renters from the whims and mercy of unscrupulous landlords has been long awaited. For too long, renters have feared reprisals should they complain to their landlord about the conditions they live in for fear of no-fault eviction. Today, June 16th, marks the beginning of the end for this sorry situation with the publishing of the Government’s policy paper “A fairer private rented sector”.

Background to the Government’s white paper

Imagine how stressful it would be living in accommodation that you pay good money for, but where conditions have deteriorated to the point where normal life becomes difficult. Often, renters face conditions where boilers don’t work, roofs leak, health damaging mould build up, unsafe wiring, utility issues, the list is endless. What recourse do they have?

Obviously, talking to the landlord is the first step. For many, no problems are experienced and a responsible landlord will fix the problem in short order. However, there are plenty of landlords that put profit before the health and welfare of their tenants. Their practice is inhuman to say the least. Put simply, even though a tenant may have dutifully paid their rent on time with no default, if the tenant complains too much, the landlord can try and kick them out using the Section 21 “no fault” eviction law and find a new tenant.

Often this process affects those less able to stand up for themselves or have the means to fight the landlord once the Section 21 has been presented and the matter goes to court. For many, it’s too late. Once a Section 21 hits their letterbox, they know it’s the end because they don’t have the means to fight, even though some assistance is available. Ultimately though, for those facing a Section 21 eviction, it’s too much stress to cope with, many go into denial and ultimately bailiffs arrive to remove them.

Some private rental market statistics

Prior to the pandemic, there were around 5000 Section 21 evictions per year. This dropped considerably during the pandemic because of the temporary legislation, but now this has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Around 13 million are in private rented accommodation
  • Approximately 30% have children
  • Under 35’s makeup over 40% of private lettings
  • Since 2019 close to a quarter of a million private renters have been subject to Section 21 notices.
  • Around 25% of female single parents have been subject to eviction threats whereas, over 30% were single males.

What has the Government introduced?

Michael Gove outlined the details of the long awaited renters reform white paper “A fairer private rented sector”, referring to it as “Our new deal for renters”, part of the Government’s “levelling up plan”. This had been billed as the “biggest shake up of the rented sector for 30 years”. This will form the basis of the Renters Reform Act, expected before March next year.

The full paper “A fairer private rented sector” can be found here.

What does it mean for renters?

The white paper sets out a 12 point plan that aims to make the private rental sector fairer for all. A summary is as follows:

  1. Privately rented homes will have to meet the “Decent Homes Standard” by 2030
  2. Pilot schemes will be run with some local councils to explore how standards enforcement will work. This will help speed up Decent Home Standard adoption.
  3. Section 21 “no fault” evictions will be abolished. A tenancy will only end if ended by the tenant or if the Landlord can prove valid grounds for possession. This means that tenants will no longer have to fear complaining to the landlord about problems with the rented property.
  4. Landlords will have an effective means to regain possession of their property should tenants become a problem for reasons such as anti-social behaviour and rental arrears.
  5. Rent review clauses in rental agreements will end. Rents will be allowed to increase once a year and the tenant will have the ability to challenge unfair rent increases through a First Tier Tribunal.
  6. A new Ombudsman will be created that all private landlords must join and through which tenants can hold their landlords to account.
  7. Unacceptable delays in court proceedings will be investigated and improved.
  8. An information site will be created – the Property Portal. This will provide information that landlords, tenants and local councils  need in making the rental sector fairer for all. Landlords will be provided with clear information on their responsibilities. Tenants will have access to their landlords compliance records and local councils will have the data they need to help defeat landlords engaged in criminal activities.
  9. Greater investigative powers will be afforded to local councils to help crack down on rental rackets operated by criminal landlords.
  10. Legislation will be introduced making it illegal for landlords to discriminate against those renters with children or on benefits. Other people in vulnerable groups will also be looked into.
  11. Pet requests will have to be given fair consideration and not unreasonably refused. However, the Tenant Fees Act of 2019 will be amended to allow landlords to request that tenants take out pet insurance to cover costs of any damage the pet may cause.
  12. There’s a commitment to explore how ‘passport deposits’ might be implemented. This would allow a single deposit to follow a tenant from rental to rental, meaning they wouldn’t have to raise a second deposit to secure a new rental while waiting for the return of the first deposit.

Conclusions

Much of what has been proposed and set out in the white paper has been discussed for some years and has been long awaited, and so it’s good to finally see action.

How quickly this will come into effective practice remains to be seen. While it all appears cleanly cut and simply presented, many renters will still need to be assisted in helping to understand their rights. Not least though, overcoming the fear of challenging the landlord over their tenant’s rights will still likely prove difficult, as the more unscrupulous landlords may still attempt to intimidate their tenants in the short term.

Foys Solicitors may be able to help, as we have had years of experience assisting renters and landlords in the local areas of Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield, Worksop and Retford. If you are experiencing difficulties with a landlord in a private let, we may be able to assist. Also, we can help landlord’s better understand how to avoid difficulties with their tenants.

Call us today on one of the local office numbers nearest you, or call our head office in Doncaster on 01302 327 136.