Renters (Reform) Bill changes ‘are not contentious’, says industry expert

Last-minute amendments to the Renters (Reform) Bill designed to appease some Tory backbenchers will make ‘little material difference’ to the majority of landlords or tenants, according to the managing director of client accounting and automated rental payment specialists, PayProp UK.

Neil Cobbold, who has closely followed the progress of the legislation since it was introduced 11 months ago, said: “When you take a step back and look at the details, these new changes amount to very little in real terms – in fact, the Bill is more or less intact.

“The government has made some tweaks after speaking to the industry but in practical terms, nothing substantial in the Renters (Reform) Bill has changed for the majority of tenants and landlords.”

 

Just before the Easter break, the government announced that it would table a series of amendments to the Bill in an effort to calm opposition from some of its own MPs.

The proposed changes include:

 

  • Accepting a proposal by the cross-party Housing Select Committee that when fixed term tenancy agreements end, ‘tenants be unable to give two months’ notice to leave until they have been in a property for at least four months’;

 

  • Reviewing the operation of the courts before ending Section 21 for existing tenancies to ensure the justice system can cope;

 

  • Ensuring all types of student housing, including one- and two-bed properties, are covered by the planned ground for possession to protect the annual cycle of the student housing market and ensure properties will be available to rent from the start of each academic year;

 

  • Reviewing the need for local authority licensing schemes in light of the proposed property portal – an idea contained within the Renters (Reform) Bill.

 

Tenant groups and charities reacted angrily to the proposed amendments claiming the government was betraying renters in favour of placating their own backbenchers.

 

But Cobbold said: “Although these amendments were billed as a big announcement, there’s nothing here that is particularly groundbreaking.

“Waiting for reform of the court process before the abolition of Section 21 is something we’ve known about since the Bill was introduced. What will be key is the details of this assessment, which we have been calling for since the legislation was introduced. The abolition of Section 21 has been a policy of every major party since the last election, so it has become a question of whether this government will abolish it or a future one.

“Until Section 21 is abolished, landlords will have to think in a slightly more structured way about how they actually evict somebody. Having to wait four months before you can give two months’ notice is effectively a six month wait – well it’s at least a six month wait now if an eviction notice is contested and the matter has to be settled through the legal system. The only material difference here is that tenants won’t be able to treat the PRS like an Airbnb lite, giving notice as soon as the tenancy begins to secure cheaper rents for a few months in a new location.

“Revising the legislation to protect student lets is something almost everybody is in favour of – students and landlords alike. If the Government didn’t take action there’d be a major problem for the new intake of students at the beginning of the academic year.

“And as far as the property portal removing the need for local authority licensing schemes is concerned, what the government has announced is only a review. What the industry is keen to see is the abolition of selective licensing schemes and HMO licences so there is consistency across England – although the question of how enforcement will work is less clear.

“I think these are quite balanced changes that the government is proposing to the Bill – nothing really contentious at all and certainly not a landlord’s charter, as some are claiming.”

 

MPs return to work after their Spring break on Monday 15 April and the Bill will be scheduled for its Third Reading shortly afterwards before progressing to the House of Lords.