Housing

Most tenants have never heard of the beleaguered Renters Reform Bill

The Renters Reform Bill has been billed as a ‘once in a generation’ shake-up of housing laws – but that message has failed to reach tenants

Renters and the Renters Reform Bill

The Renters Reform Bill is intended to give tenants more security and power to stay in their homes but the news hasn't reached most renters. Image: RDNE Stock Project / Pexels

More than four out of five tenants are unaware of the Renters Reform Bill despite the government’s promise it will deliver a ‘once in a generation’ change to housing laws.

The Renters Reform Bill is intended to redress the power balance between renters and landlords by scrapping no-fault evictions and other reforms.

The much-delayed legislation is languishing in parliament with reports suggesting it could be on ‘the brink of collapse’ earlier this month.

But a survey of 2,000 private renters, from the Tenant Deposit Scheme Charitable Foundation (TDS), found 83% of those quizzed were unaware of the bill and its contents.

Dr Jennifer Harris, head of policy and research at TDS Group, said: “The bill represents the biggest set of changes to the rental market for over 30 years. Given this, it is worrying that so many tenants are unaware of what it is and what it seeks to achieve.

“It is vital that tenants feel able to challenge the minority of landlords failing to provide safe housing or a good enough service. This can only be achieved by ensuring renters understand the changes being made and are confident that they will help them to do so.

“The TDS Foundation will continue to work to ensure tenants fully understand and make use of their rights to ensure the bill works. “

The survey found awareness of the proposed reforms has increased by 27% over the past year but the majority of renters remain in the dark over the bill.

But the majority said that reform of the private rented sector was overdue.

After being told about the bill’s planned reforms, 61% told TDS that it will improve tenant rights and 40% said they would be more inclined to engage in the planned introduction of a new ombudsman.

Around 60% agreed the removal of no-fault evictions would boost security and stability but 8% of renters disagreed while a third remained undecided.

Meanwhile, 42% of tenants thought the bill will do little to change the sector while 37% said they don’t believe the reforms will ever be implemented.

What is the Renters Reform Bill?

The Renters Reform Bill was first revealed in June 2022 to deliver on the government’s promise to end no-fault evictions, which have been accused of driving homelessness.

It’s now five years since the Conservative government, then led by Theresa May, promised to end no-fault evictions.

With record-high rents, the private rented sector providing a home for more households over the last couple of decades and suffering more quality issues than other types of housing, the Renters Reform Bill is intended to give tenants more power, security and stability.

That involves introducing measures such as a decent homes standard, a dedicated private renting ombudsman to resolve complaints as well as protecting the right to have a pet and preventing discrimination against tenants on benefits or with children.

The bill was finally introduced to parliament in May 2023 but progress has been slow since then.

Housing secretary Michael Gove vowed last month that no-fault evictions would be scrapped by the time voters head to the polls in the next general election.

But the bill is still awaiting its report stage in the House of Commons and was absent from leader of the house Penny Mordaunt’s recent order of business for the weeks ahead.

It must still also face scrutiny across five stages in the House of Lords before becoming law.

Media reports have cast doubt on the bill completing its journey into law amid reports it is on the “brink of collapse”, reportedly due to opposition from a number of Tory MPs.

In response to the reports, Tom Darling, the campaign manager at the Renters Reform Coalition, said “It’s barely believable that against an escalating evictions and homelessness crisis we have a government slow-walking one of the only policy levers they say will address the issue.

“We are now very concerned this vital legislation won’t get passed before the election – if it doesn’t, it would be an outrageous betrayal of England’s 11 million private renters.”

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