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No fault evictions to be axed in private rental sector reform

The government has recently introduced a long-awaited bill set to change the landscape for landlords and tenants in the private sector – the Renters (Reform) Bill.

According to government statistics, privately rented property has doubled since 2004, hitting its peak in 2016, from which point it appears to have remained fairly stable.

The current legal framework enables landlords to serve notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 on most tenants, to evict them on less than two months’ notice, without any need to identify a fault on the tenants’ part. This looks set to change in the not too distant future.

The government assesses there are about 11 million private tenants and about 2.3 million landlords in England, so its proposed measures inevitably have far reaching consequences for many within our communities.

The reforms have been in the making for several years and principally means the following:

  • Abolition of section 21 notices (no fault evictions).
  • A major overhaul of the various grounds for possession upon which landlords can rely in order to recover property from problem tenants.
  • More protection for tenants to appeal against landlords that want to increase rents over and above perceived market levels – although is it not obviously the case that a price tenants are willing to pay constitutes the market rent rate?
  • The introduction of a Privately Rented Sector Ombudsman (the intention being that landlords and tenants can access impartial and binding resolutions in a quick and cheap fashion that takes some pressure off the courts).
  • The creation of a Privately Rented Property Portal, offering advice to landlords to help them navigate the increasingly complicated legal framework in which their legal obligations are enshrined and where compliance is often mandatory. The portal is also intended to assist private tenants when it comes to making decisions about the roof over their heads.
  • The right for tenants to insist upon keeping a pet in a rented property, regardless of the landlord’s preference on this single issue.
  • Making it illegal for landlords (and indeed agents) to impose a blanket ban on renting property in the private sector to tenants on benefits (and the government has categorically characterised that practice as discrimination).

To landlords, the measures are obviously weighted heavily in favour of tenants, whereas tenants will claim all these measures are justified on the basis of reason and fairness. It seems unlikely district judges will criticise measures that county courts overwhelmed with possession claims.

The government’s approach presumably takes the view that provided landlords can more easily evict anti-social tenants or those with significant rent arrears, that inherently represents a fair trade off against the abolition of no-fault possessions.

Landlords will also be concerned that some tenants may look to take further advantage of the system at the expense of landlords.

Regardless of your view, there is plainly a strong appetite for change and a willingness to explore laws that offer private renters considerably more stability than they have enjoyed in the past.

At Fosters Solicitors, we act for a wide variety of landlords with portfolios that range from a single inherited property to those with one or two, those looking to develop their catalogue, to incorporated landlords with extensive lists of diverse property including HMOs.

If you have questions or concerns about landlord and tenant issues, and you are looking for robust, proportionate advice, do feel free to enquire on 01603 723783 or email, and we can put you directly in touch with our specialist property lawyers.

This article was produced on the 30th May 2023 by our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.