radical rental reform

Radical rental reforms incoming – what do landlords need to know?

The government recently revealed its Levelling Up White Paper after many months of speculation about its contents. When it was released by Housing Secretary Michael Gove, it included plenty about the private rented sector.

Here, we take a look at what was announced and how it could impact landlords.

What did the Levelling Up White Paper say?

The paper confirmed the scrapping of Section 21 eviction notices. Gove said this will ‘end the unfair situation where renters can be kicked out of their homes for no reason’.

The White Paper also outlined that all homes in the PRS must meet a minimum standard. This’ll be known as the Decent Homes Standard. What’s more, it pledged to consult on introducing a landlords register (something that is already the case in Scotland). And set out further plans for a crackdown on rogue operators. The paper said this will include making sure fines and bans ‘stop repeat offenders leaving renters in terrible conditions’.

As well the PRS, the White Paper also reiterated the government’s aim to boost home ownership. This will be through a new £1.5 billion Levelling Up Building Fund. Which will provide loans to small and medium-sized developers. It will also support the government’s broader regeneration agenda in areas that are deemed a priority for levelling up.

According to the White Paper, there will be ‘more genuinely affordable social housing’. And a new Social Housing Regulation Bill will be introduced following the Grenfell fire tragedy in June 2017.

Overall, the far-reaching Levelling Up White Paper included 12 so-called missions. This covered a whole range of areas, from health and wellbeing to housing, jobs and transport. These missions have been enshrined in law as part of the flagship Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas. And the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%. With the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.

“Levelling Up and this White Paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery. This will not be an easy task. It won’t happen overnight, but our 12 new national levelling up missions will drive real change in towns and cities across the UK. So that where you live will no longer determine how far you can go,” Gove said at the time.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson insisted that the Levelling Up White Paper is the ‘most comprehensive plan of its kind that this country has ever seen’. It will ensure that ‘the government continues to rise to the challenge and deliver for the people of the UK’.

How did the industry react?

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said in response to the release of the Levelling Up White Paper. “Every tenant should have the right to expect properties to be safe and secure. The existing Decent Homes Standard, however, is not the right vehicle with which to achieve this important goal.”

“At present, this standard, designed for the social rented sector, does not reflect many of the differences between it and the private rented sector. This includes the types and age of properties in each.”

He added: “We will work with the government to ensure whatever standards expected of the sector are proportionate, fit for purpose and can be properly enforced. Without this, criminal landlords will continue to undermine the reputation of the vast majority of responsible landlords doing the right thing.”

Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at fellow trade body Propertymark, also commented: “Everyone wants to see a crackdown on rogue landlords and safe and secure private rented homes. But additional standards are meaningless unless they are enforced. What’s key for ‘levelling up’ the private rented sector is ensuring that local authorities have the staff and resources needed to actively go out, inspect properties and prosecute.”

He added: “Abolishing Section 21 has been talked about for a while now by the UK government but what agents want to know is what will replace it to maintain confidence in the market for landlords. Propertymark believes the only workable alternative is to strengthen all grounds for possession and make them all mandatory. This is in-keeping with the spirit of the UK government’s intentions as tenant’s won’t be evicted unless they have been provided with good reason to do so.”

Douglas concluded: “We await further details but additional commitments from the UK government to build more genuinely affordable social housing is important. Because the long-term solution to address the lack of affordability in the private rented sector is to ensure that more social housing is built to reduce housing need.”

When will reform be introduced?

The proposals included in the Levelling Up White Paper were nothing new. They are expected to be fleshed out in the upcoming White Paper on Rental Reform. Which will in turn inform the long-awaited Renters’ Reform Bill.

The White Paper on Rental Reform is expected this spring. But the current situation in Ukraine – in addition to recovering from Covid and the allegations against the government concerning partygate – could push this back again. With the government’s attentions focused elsewhere.

Only once the final version of the Renters’ Reform Bill has been decided upon will we know exactly what is being introduced. And a rough timeframe for it.

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Radical rental reforms incoming – what do landlords need to know?
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Radical rental reforms incoming – what do landlords need to know?
Atkinson McLeod explores the latest with planned radical rental reforms and what they could mean for landlords.
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Atkinson McLeod
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