Many tenants live with the worry of being evicted at short notice or endure poor accommodation for fear they will be asked to leave if they complain about problems with their home. This is a problem that must be tackled.
Through the Renters (Reform) Bill, the Government will abolish Section 21 evictions and move to a simpler tenancy structure where all assured tenancies are periodic. I believe that reforming the current tenancy system will provide more security to private renters and give them the confidence to properly settle down in their homes. These reforms will also empower tenants to challenge poor practice and unfair rent increases without fear of a 'no fault' eviction.
Please be assured that I very much appreciate the vital role that landlords play in the housing market by providing homes for the more than four million households in the private rented sector. That said, I also believe it is right to acknowledge the concerns of renters.
Through the Renters (Reform) Bill, tenants who would previously have had an assured tenancy or assured shorthold tenancy will move onto a single system of periodic tenancies. This will offer greater security while retaining the flexibility that attracts many tenants to the private rented sector. A tenancy will only come to an end if the tenant chooses to leave or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession. Tenants will need to give two months’ notice when leaving a tenancy which would ensure that landlords can avoid lengthy void periods.
It is important that providing tenants with this greater security is balanced with an assurance that landlords are able to recover their properties where they have valid reason to do so. This is vital to ensuring the future supply of good quality housing in the private rented sector. I recognise that many landlords may struggle to recover their properties when faced with anti-social behaviour and wilful non-payment of rent and the legal landscape can sometimes be difficult to navigate. The Renters (Reform) Bill will introduce more comprehensive possession grounds so landlords can still recover their property, including where they wish to sell their property or move in close family. It will also make it easier for landlords to repossess properties where tenants are at fault, for example in cases of anti-social behaviour and repeat rent arrears.
I appreciate the importance of allowing time for a smooth transition to this new system and I am assured that tenants, landlords and agents will be supported as they adjust. As I understand it, these reforms will be implemented in two stages, with all new tenancies becoming periodic followed by existing tenancies.
I recognise concerns about so called 'backdoor' evictions, which is why I welcome that the Renters (Reform) Bill will offer stronger protections against these types of eviction by ensuring tenants are able to appeal excessively above-market rents which are purely designed to force them out. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been clear that, as now, landlords will still be able to increase rents to market price for their properties. If needed, an independent tribunal will make a judgement on this.
Finally, I appreciate the concern about the use of the term ‘no fault’ evictions to describe Section 21 proceedings. Unlike other notices, Section 21 proceedings allow a landlord to repossess their property without having to establish fault on the part of tenant. While I recognise that some landlords may choose to serve Section 21 notices during a break clause in a fixed-term contract, they can also be used during rolling contracts to repossess a property without providing a reason.