There has been talk for a long time about changes to renting. This year we have seen the Renters (Reform) Bill (Bill 308 2022-23 (as introduced)) which give us a taste of what is to come. The Bill still needs to go through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, before it gets Royal Assent, so we can expect there to be some changes along the way.
The purpose of the reform is to provide fairer tenancies and stabilise the rental market. However, what it also seems to do is abolish Assured Shorthold Tenancies altogether, and it now refers to tenancies as Assured Tenancies. This in turn suggests that periodic tenancies with no fixed term may soon become the norm.
A snippet of some the changes include:
- Abolishment of section 21 notices:
As a reminder, section 21 is the way a landlord can bring a tenancy agreement to an end when there is no fault by the tenant, at the end of a fixed term. This new Bill now proposes that the only way to bring a tenancy to an end is by serving a section 8 Notice, and removing the “no fault” section 21 notice completely. The reasons behind this is to apparently level the playing field between landlords and tenants.
The grounds to evict under section 8 are therefore being reviewed, and the Bill has made various changes to the existing grounds. I expect these will still be amended along the way. There are also new grounds proposed, some of which include the landlord’s intent to sell the property, a superior lease ending and private landlord employees.
Despite these proposed changes, it’s important to note that a landlord still needs to comply with the requirements under the Housing Act 2004 to protect the deposit and provide the prescribed information to the tenant.
- Tenant’s notice to quit:
Another proposed change is that the tenant can give two months’ notice to end the tenancy at any time during the tenancy and parties can agree a shorter period. This suggests that a tenant can give notice to end the tenancy quickly, and the aim is to allow tenants to end tenancies when the property doesn’t seem to be suitable or fit for purpose.
- Rent increases:
The Bill proposes that the only way a landlord can increase rent payments is by serving a section 13 Housing Act 1988 Notice, giving two months’ notice. A tenant can also challenge the rent amount, and this can even be done in the first 6 months of the tenancy starting, and it will be assessed against ‘open market rent’.
It will be an implied term that all private tenants can keep a pet with the landlord’s consent (unless it’s reasonably refused). A tenant can apply in writing to keep a pet and the landlord can ask for further information.
There are many other suggested reforms in the Bill, far too many to discuss in just one blog. The Bill still has a long way to go before it is implemented as law and there will likely be many changes made to it, but it is a good starting point of what to expect. It will give landlords (or future landlords) a chance to anticipate what is likely to come and make a decision as to whether they want to be a landlord/continue to be a landlord, deal with any evictions before the new rules come into force, and assess if and how any new laws may affect them.
It’s certainly something to keep an eye on over the next couple of years.
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*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.