New measures aimed at protecting the rights of private renters are welcome but local authorities must be properly funded to support their implementation, council chiefs say.
The Government today launched what they described as a ‘new deal’ aimed at ensuring that the 4.4 million private rented tenants in the UK have access to safe accommodation and are not subjected to arbitrary rent hikes or eviction.
The Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper proposes to extend the Decent Homes Standard to the private sector. Previously only applicable to public housing, the Decent Homes Standard means that landlords must ensure private rental properties are free from serious health and safety hazards.
‘No fault’ Section 21 evictions, which allow landlords to terminate tenancies without giving any reason, will be outlawed and blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits will also be banned.
‘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,’ said levelling up and housing secretary Michael Gove.
‘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.’
The white paper sets out measures 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 give tenants the power to take landlords to court if their homes are not at an acceptable standard.
Local authorities will also be given stronger powers to tackle the worst offenders and increase fines for serious offences. These will be backed by enforcement pilots.
Responding to the announcement, Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: ‘We are pleased that the Government has committed to introducing legislation through the White Paper to increase the rights of tenants and enable them to better hold their landlord to account.
‘Removal of “no-fault evictions” is a key step towards increased protection for private renters and will allow renters to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of eviction. It will also be important that landlords are able to get their properties back in a timely fashion where they have a valid reason to do so.
‘Commitment to extending a legally binding Decent Homes Standard to improve conditions in the private rented sector is positive. This reform should be implemented quickly, and it is vital that councils are sufficiently resourced, through new burdens funding, to support the implementation of the standard.’
He continued: ‘To go even further towards tackling insecure and unfit housing, we would like to see a review of Local Housing Allowance rates, and councils to have stronger selective licensing powers by removing the requirement for secretary of state approval for larger schemes.’
There will also be a new property portal that will provide a single source of information for landlords, councils and tenants, and a new Private Renters’ Ombudsman will be created to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled without going to court.
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.’
Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, welcomed the proposals and said that it was important for the plans to 'keep their teeth' as they passed through Parliament.
'The Renters’ Reform Bill is a gamechanger for England’s 11 million private renters. Scrapping unfair evictions will level the playing field. For the first time in a long time, tenants will be able to stand up to bad behaviour instead of living in fear,' she said.
'This white paper promises people safety and security in their home, and it makes clear that landlords need to play by the rules. Gone will be the days of families being uprooted and children forced to move school after being slapped with a Section 21 no-fault eviction for no good reason.
'As these plans move through Parliament, they’ve got to keep their teeth to drive up standards and professionalise private renting. For every renter trapped in a never-ending nightmare of moving from one shoddy rental to the next, the Renters’ Reform Bill cannot come soon enough.'