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16 Jun 2022

Renting a home: tenants to be offered greater protection from eviction and rent rises

Government sets out plans to 'redress the balance' between landlords and tenants

Renters in England are set to be offered greater protection against eviction and rent rises, under plans for a 'major reset of power' in the private rented sector.

The government will today announce wide-ranging reforms including a ban on no-fault evictions, giving tenants the right to appeal against rent increases, and putting more pressure on landlords to allow tenants to have pets.

Here, we explain what the new reforms could mean for landlords and tenants.  

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Government announces shake-up of renting rules

The government will today publish its 'Fairer Private Rented Sector' white paper, which it says marks the 'biggest shake up of the rented sector in 30 years'.

The paper will include a host of reforms designed to help tenants, including the following:

  • The Decent Homes Standard will be extended to private renters. Rented homes must be free from serious health and safety hazards, and landlords must keep properties in a good state of repair.
  • Section 21 'no fault' evictions will be banned.
  • Landlords will no longer be able to set blanket bans on families with children or those in receipt of benefits.
  • Tenants will be able to request to have a pet.
  • Notice periods for rent increases will double and tenants will have stronger powers to challenge unjustified increases. 
  • Arbitrary rent review clauses will be banned.

In addition, landlords will be offered support through the following measures:

  • A Private Renters' Ombudsman will be created to settle disputes without court action. This will help landlords quickly gain possession of properties from anti-social tenants.
  • A new property portal will be introduced to help landlords understand and comply with their responsibilities.

Why is the government looking to overhaul renting?

The government has long been planning changes to the private rented sector, having previously consulted on measures such as abolishing Section 21 and introducing lifetime rental deposits. These new measures will be part of the Renters Reform Bill, which was originally put forward in 2019 before being delayed due to the pandemic.

The government says the new reforms will offer support to tenants who need it the most. Its research found that 21% of private renters live in 'unfit' homes, with 12% of properties posing an imminent risk to health and safety. 

Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove says: 'For too long many private renters have been at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who fail to repair homes and let families live in damp, unsafe and cold properties, with the threat of unfair "no fault" evictions orders hanging over them.

'Our New Deal for renters will help to end this injustice by improving the rights and conditions for millions of renters as we level up across the country and deliver on the people’s priorities.'

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Section 21 reforms finally confirmed

Confirmation of the ban on Section 21 evictions is among the most notable of today's announcements.

Section 21 evictions - also known as 'no fault' evictions - allow landlords to evict their tenants with two months' notice without needing to give a reason for doing so. 

The government says more than a fifth of private renters who moved in 2019 and 2020 didn't end their tenancies by choice, and claims the new rules will offer greater security for renters.

The exact changes to the eviction process are yet to be confirmed, but they likely mean that landlords will only be able to serve notice on tenants in line with the agreed end date of their contracts, or in specific circumstances, such as instances of anti-social behaviour or a pressing need for the landlord to sell the property. 

Will it be easier to have 'lets with pets'?

The new rules will give all tenants the right to request to keep a pet in their rented property.

Landlords will be expected to consider all requests and won't be allowed to 'unreasonably' refuse them. If they do so, the tenant will be able to challenge the decision. 

Tenants with pets may be required to take out suitable insurance to protect the landlord's property from damage.

As with Section 21, these proposals have been in the pipeline for a while. In February 2021, we reported that the government had updated its tenancy agreement template to stop landlords setting blanket bans on tenants with pets. 

How to cut renting costs

Earlier this year the Which? Money Podcast heard from renters affected by rising costs, and spoke to experts about what people can do to keep them as low as possible.

You can listen to the episode using the link below.