Read our complete guide for Bristol landlords navigating the new Renters Reform Bill.
The renters reform bill has been expected for many years. The government have been speaking about their intent to scrap Section 21 evictions since at least 2019 and, particularly since the pandemic, there’s been pushback against the raising of rental prices and the increase in the number of no-fault evictions in high-demand cities such as Bristol.
As such, it’s been an anxious time for many landlords as they wait to find out how their income, relationship with tenants, and their control over their properties may be affected.
Several years after the initial plans were announced, on the 17th of May 2023, Michael Gove has presented draft legislation of the Renters Bill to parliament.
Talking about the intent for the reforms, he stated he hoped they would “support the vast majority of responsible landlords who provide quality homes to their tenants, while delivering our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions.”
It’s expected that the legislation will go through a number of changes before it becomes law. However, if you’re a Bristol landlord, we suggest staying abreast of the proposals so you can make informed decisions about new tenants, properties, and investments with the upcoming Bill in mind.
As the biggest upheaval of the rental market in a generation, it pays to plan ahead for changes and make sure you have a full understanding of what is expected to stay on the right side of the law.
Read on to find out Renters Reform Bill guide for landlords in Bristol (according to the current proposals).
Current legislation makes “no fault” evictions fairly easy for landlords to carry out in cases of assured shorthold or periodic tenancies where the tenant had already been in resident for several months. Section 21 Evictions gave tenants a “notice of possession”, informing them that they were expected to leave the property after at least a 2-month notice period, without citing a specific reason for eviction.
Many landlords will do this if they require use of the property for a time, or if they wish to avoid going to court with a tenant over whether their behaviour constitutes a breach of contract.
The Renter’s Reform Bill proposes to scrap Section 21 evictions entirely. It is hoped that this will put tenants in a stronger position for asking for appropriate repairs, upkeep matters, and other concerns.
The white paper also lays out plans to shorten notice periods for evictions where the tenant has exhibited criminal or anti-social behaviour, and to introduce as-yet-unspecific court reforms.
It means that, if landlords wish to ask tenants to leave for any reason, they will now have to use a Section 8 Notice. To reflect this change, it’s expected that valid reasons to serve a Section 8 will be amended to include:
In situations where the tenant has occupied the property for more than 6 months.
The government are also proposing to add a new ground for possession to Section 8 notices regarding rent arrears. Regardless of the amount of money owed at the time of the hearing, landlords will be able to serve mandatory evictions to tenants who have been in at least two months rent arrears three times within the past three years
It’s expected that, when the bill becomes law, Landlords and tenants will be given at least 6 months notice of when Section 21 will come to an end. It will then be applied to new tenancies only before being rolled out for all renters.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies are also due to come to an end with the new reforms. It’s expected that all forms of fixed term tenancy agreements will be replaced with a “single tiered system of periodic tenancies” which will be more flexible for tenants.
There are likely to be more short-term tenancies occurring, as it’s proposed that all tenants will be able to leave tenancy agreements at any time after giving 2 months notice. This may mean that Landlords will be called to find new tenants more frequently, with the associated costs and time involved.
There may also be more pressure on landlords to ensure properties are liveable and well-maintained, as it shall be easier for dissatisfied tenants to leave.
However, in reality, this may have less of an impact on areas such as Bristol, where there is consistently high competition for rental properties.
There are due to be more restrictions on rent increases as the cost of living continues to rise. Under the new bill, landlords will only be able to increase the cost of rent once per year, after giving a minimum of 2 months notice of what the increase will be. There are also plans to end the current use of rent review clauses for automatic rent increases.
Even more than previously, landlords should carefully consider rent increases as these will only be able to happen once every twelve months. They should also ensure any increases are clearly laid out for tenants and are in line with the market value of the rental, as it’s intended to be easier for tenants to challenge vague or unfair rent increases through first tier tribunals.
Whether or not their properties are rented out through an agent, a mandatory ombudsman will be introduced for all private landlords to handle and investigate complaints from tenants.
They will also have new powers, including the ability to compel landlords to do any of the following where:
It seems that joining the ombudsman will be required of all private landlords, and any who refuse to engage may face fines or banning orders.
Landlords should continue to follow the appropriate processes and legislation which deal with letting a property and dealing with tenants. With these changes, tenants may feel more easily able to make complaints when there are any issues, so it’s more important than ever for landlords to ensure they’re following the correct procedures.
A National Landlord Portal is expected to be created to give better visibility on the requirements landlords are expected to meet and their level of compliance. There are currently few details about what this portal may look like or how it will function.
Potentially, it means more online admin for landlords, but hopefully also more clarity on what they are expected to do to meet regulations.
The whitepaper laid out that all tenanted properties must be registered on the portal, along with any compliance documentation, so local councils and tenants can easily tell rogue landlords from legitimate ones.
The Bill will introduce a new set of rights for tenants with pets. Under these rights, landlords will no longer have the ability to unreasonably deny consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home. In cases where tenants believe that landlords are being unreasonable, they will have the right to challenge such decisions.
The government additionally plans to amend the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to include pet insurance as a permitted payment. This means that landlords will be able to require tenants to have pet insurance as a condition for allowing pets in the property.
Pet owning tenants have been gaining power in this regard recently, so this seems more of a natural progression than many of the reforms.
It’s not yet exactly known what will be viewed as a “reasonable” cause to refuse pet ownership in the property, but it’s likely to include concerns about the safety of the animal in question or if they are causing a danger or nuisance to others.
The bill might slightly lessen the unique selling point of choosing to advertise your property as “pet friendly”, as pet rules will be more lenient on for most rentals.
You may feel less happy about the idea of a pet being in residence at one of your properties, particularly if it’s furnished. However, the risk of most pets causing major damage to a property is relatively low, and the ability to have pet insurance as a permitted payment does cover you for many risks which come with having a dog or cat in the property.
Yes, there are plans to prevent landlords from placing blanket bans on renting their property to those on benefits and families with children.
Also in progress are proposals to apply the “decent home standard” (currently used in the social housing sector) to privately rented homes. This will ensure properties are free of health and safety risks and kept in a decent state of repair.
Even in the calmest of times, managing tenants and keeping your rented property following the appropriate regulations can be challenging and time-consuming.
Our landlord services in Bristol help private landlords with transparent, expert support and advice along with tenant finding and property management services where required.
If you need assistance in managing these major changes in the world of property letting, fill out our contact form below or give us a ring.