Renters have been waiting for three years for ministers to make good on their promise to scrap 'no fault' evictions. Image: Robert Linder / Unsplash
Ministers have promised the “biggest change to renters law in a generation” after unveiling plans to scrap ‘no fault’ evictions and improve the standard of rented homes.
The Westminster government said the Renters’ Reform Bill will block landlords from evicting tenants without giving any reason. It also claims the reforms will help tenants facing the cost of living crisis by preventing an estimated £1,400 in moving costs from one private rented home to another.
Levelling Up and Housing secretary Michael Gove said: “Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe and cold homes, powerless to put it right, and under the threat of sudden eviction.
“The New Deal for renters announced today will help to end this injustice, improving conditions and rights for millions of renters.
“This is all part of our plan to level up communities and improve the life chances of people from all corners of the country.”
The long-awaited Renters’ Reform Bill promises to bring an end to ‘no fault’ evictions by scrapping section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 more than three years after Theresa May promised to axe them.
While the reforms mean the government is committing to its 2019 manifesto commitment with the changes, Gove on Wednesday confirmed he was backtracking on another.
The cabinet minister said he was ripping up the target of building 300,000 new homes a year and councils would be given more say on housebuilding through the Levelling Up and Regeneration bill also announced in the Queen’s Speech.
Gove told the BBC’s Today programme: “Well, we’ll do everything we can but it’s no kind of success simply to hit a target if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities.
“Ultimately, when you’re building a new dwelling, you’re not simply trying to hit a statistical target. I’m certainly not.”
He added: “We are not bound – I am not bound – by one criterion alone when it comes to development. Arithmetic is important, but so is beauty, so is belonging, so is democracy.”
However, the government said axing no-fault evictions will mean more security for renters to remain in their homes. A fifth of renters who left their property in the past year did not end their tenancy through choice, ministers said.
Jordan Phizacklea-Cullen, ACORN board member said: “Whilst it’s welcome news that the government is finally honouring its 2019 election manifesto pledge to abolish section 21 no-fault evictions, this move has been unnecessarily delayed and in the meantime has left thousands of private renters at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who have been able to interpret the law to their own ends and drive up homelessness figures on a whim.
“We now need to see ministers be as good as their word and actually make sure these changes are put into effect as a real-life protection to those living in the UK’s almost 4.6m rented households.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added that the changes should mean renters don’t have to live in “constant fear” of a no-fault eviction. She added: “But these promises will remain words on page until they become law. Now the government needs to get the job done.”
The bill will also extend the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time. The standard outlines four criteria to define what is considered decent housing and was previously only applied to social housing, excluding leasehold and shared ownership properties.
This reform will prevent private landlords from benefiting from taxpayer’s money for renting out low quality homes. Ministers claim it will prevent an estimated £3billion a year in housing benefit going to landlords to rent out non-decent homes.
The reform will also save the NHS money – the government pointed to the £340m a year the Public Accounts Committee estimated last month was spent on treating renters living in unsafe homes.
Renters will also be able to track their landlord’s performance in a new property portal, which will also be designed to help councils crack down on poor practice.
The bill will also set up a new ombudsman with the aim of allowing renters and landlords to settle disputes without the expensive and time-consuming process of going to court.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said this measure “cannot be a substitute for proper court reform”, warning it can take a landlord almost a year to regain their properties.
The legislation will also strengthen landlords’ grounds for repossession by making it easier for them to evict tenants who are wilfully not paying rent or who are repeatedly engaging in anti-social behaviour.
The government has pledged to shortly publish a White Paper setting out more detail on the proposals.