While today’s proposals have been broadly welcomed, some campaigners say they simply don’t go far enough – as Geraint Vincent reports
So-called no-fault evictions will be banned under new legislation, the government has announced.
The Renters’ (Reform) Bill will allow tenants to challenge poor landlords without losing their homes, according to Housing Secretary Michael Gove.
A new ombudsman will be established to oversee dispute resolutions, the government said, and a digital “property portal” will be set up to help property owners in understanding their obligations.
Renters will also be given the legal right to request a pet in their home, which landlords must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse, according to the Department of Leveling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
Mr Gove said the plans represent a “new deal” with “fairness at its heart” – but critics argue the reforms are “long overdue” and the Bill fails to protect tenants from rent hikes being used to circumvent the new rules.
“Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden violence hanging over them,” the housing secretary said.
“This government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a new deal to those living in the private rented sector; one with quality, affordability and fairness at its heart.”
DLUHC says its plans will affect 11 million tenants in England and two million landlords, who it claims will be more easily able to evict anti-social tenants, and the number of disruptive and harmful activities that can lead to evict will be broadened.
Michael Gove insists renters will be protected from unfair rent hikes
Notice periods will be reduced where renters have been “irresponsible” – for example, by breaching their tenancy agreement or causing damage to the property, according to the government.
The Bill also seeks to make it illegal for landlords and agents to impose blanket bans on renting to benefit claimants or families with children, and apply home quality standards to the private rented sector for the first time.
Campaigners welcomed the “once-in-a-generation” announcement, but union members warned that people renting out their homes may be able to “circumnavigate” the rules by using large rent hikes to force unwanted tenants out.
One couple served what they believed was an unfair eviction notice told ITV News they felt “depressed” by the situation.
Mandy and Robbie Constant had rented their home for nearly eight years, but are now packing up the family’s life after they were told they had to leaveThey said they did not know where they would go next because the 80 homes they had applied for had all turned them away.
“Being a low income family, we’re not getting anywhere [in findind a new place] and the stress is getting quite high – we both have anxiety and depression,” Mr Constant told ITV News.Under the new law, the couple would never have received a Section 21 notice to leave their home.The Bill has come too late for them, but could protect others seeking stability in a turbulent housing market.
Tenant tells ITV News his situation after being served an eviction notice
Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of campaign group Generation Rent, said the legislation is a “huge opportunity” to improve the lives of tenants across England.
“Abolishing (no-fault evictions) will take away much of the stress of renting and improve communication and trust between tenants and landlords. The new property portal and ombudsman have the potential to make it much harder for criminal landlords to operate.
“These reforms wouldn’t be happening without the tireless campaigning of members of the Renters Reform Coalition and thousands of renters over many years.
“We look forward to reading the Bill and working with ministers and parliamentarians to make sure the legislation achieves what it sets out to do.”
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would “take on planning reform” if elected to government.
Sir Keir continued: “There’s nothing that reeks more of decline than the idea that this country no longer knows how to build things. So mark my words: we will take on planning reform. We will bring back local housing targets.
“We’ll streamline the process for national infrastructure projects and commercial development and we’ll remove the veto used by big landowners to stop shovels hitting the ground.
“Tough choices, but the right choices. Choices we make with our eyes wide open.
“We choose the builders, not the blockers. The future, not the past. Renewal, not decline. We choose growth.”
One of those tough choices, he said, would be whether to build on the green belt under some circumstances.
The green belt refers to the policy of leaving an area of land around a city or town undeveloped or set aside for agricultural use to prevent urban sprawl.
Sir Keir used the example of houses being built on a playing field in Maidstone rather than on a car park, with the reason given that the car park was classified as being in the green belt.
Michael Webb, head of policy and public affairs at Battersea Cats & Dogs Home, said tenants being unable to find anywhere to rent with their pets is a key reason why many people take their animals to the home.
Sir Keir Starmer has been setting out what Labor would do in power – including building on green belt land in locally agreed locations, as Romilly Weeks explains
Martin Lewis, founder of the MoneySavingExpert.com website, said he was “pleased” at the introduction of a statutory ombudsman to compel apologies and take remedial action.
But Siobhan Donnachie, spokeswoman for the London Renters Union, branded the Bill “long overdue” and said “inflation-busting rents” will mean renters will still feel insecure.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, suggested that the Bill lacks detail, saying: “Responsible landlords need to be confident that when Section 21 ends, where they have a legitimate reason, they will be able to repossess their properties as quickly as possible.
“Without this assurance, the Bill will only exacerbate the rental housing supply crisis many tenants now face.”
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