Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper: your questions answered
After years of delays and deliberations, the Renters’ Reform Bill has finally been crystalised in its associated White Paper. Titled the Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper: a new deal for renting, the contents will soon become law and shape the way lettings is run. We’ve pre-empted the most common questions landlords may ask, and provided our answers.
Q. Why is this White Paper so important?
A. White papers are policy documents produced by the Government that set out their proposals for future legislation. What is contained in the Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper will soon become law, representing the biggest change to buy-to-let since the Housing Act 2004.
Q. Are Section 21 evictions being banned?
A. Yes. The White Paper confirms that Section 21 evictions – also known as ‘no fault’ evictions – will be abolished. Previously, landlords didn’t have to give a reason for ending a tenancy when they used a Section 21. In the future, there will be a very limited number of reasons why a landlord can ask tenants to leave.
Q. Will it be harder to regain my buy-to-let property?
A. Although Section 21s will end, the Government is going to make it easier for landlords to regain their property if their tenants are repeatedly involved in anti-social behaviour and/or those who are in serious rent arrears. It’s also thought that landlords will be able to give notice should they want to sell the property or move back in themselves, although details on this part of the legislation await confirmation.
Q. Is it true that I’ll have to accept renters with children, those on benefits and pets?
A. Not always. Although the White Paper says there will be a blanket ban on refusing to rent to families with children, for those tenants in receipt of benefits and those with domestic animals, there will be exceptions and each tenancy will be treated on an individual basis, taking affordability into account. The new measures do suggest, however, that landlords will be able to insist tenants with pets take out mandatory pet insurance as part of the qualifying criteria.
Q. How can I raise the rent in the future?
A. The new White Paper states that rent rises can only happen once, annually, and if this is the landlord’s intention, all rent rises will have to go through the statutory Section 13 process. Landlords will also have to give tenants much longer notice if they plan to increase the rent.
Q. Am I going to have to improve standards in my buy-to-let?
A. Possibly. The new White Paper states the Decent Homes Standard that already applies to social housing will also apply to privately rented properties. There are minimum living standards to meet but most landlords are already complying with these, thanks to the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, and the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
Q. Will there be a new way for disputes to be resolved?
A. Yes, as the Government will set up a private renters’ ombudsman to avoid disputes going to court. The ombudsman would step in to mediate if a tenant disagreed with a rent rise, decided to challenge a refusal to keep a pet or wanted a rent refund as a result of substandard living conditions.
Q. Will there be a ‘rogue landlord’ register?
A. Not as such. A new online portal is to be launched, heralding a one place where all a landlord’s legal buy-to-let obligations, together with lettings advice, is set out. It’s unclear at the moment whether registering for the portal will be compulsory and if it is, it will create a landlord’s register by default.
Q. Are there any changes to deposits?
A. There are no changes to the tenancy deposit system outlined in this White Paper. It was thought there could be a shift towards lifetime deposits but there is nothing in the White Paper to suggest this will become law soon, although the idea is still in development.
Q. And what’s changing in terms of tenancies?
A. Fixed term tenancies will become a thing of the past, with all tenants moving over to periodic tenancies. Tenants will be able to exit their agreement more easily and when they want, with some notice, rather than wait for a fixed timeframe to end.
The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper appears in full on the Government’s website but if you’d like any clarification, do call our lettings team.
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