New rules for UK landlords – we look into the Renters Reform Bill 2022

The Queen's Speech in May 2022 shared new details on the Renters' Reform Bill and the Government have now published the White Paper. 

Posted: June 29, 2022

Renters' Reform Bill

We have summarised what was covered below along with outlining some new updates around the changes to fire safety and carbon monoxide and smoke alarm regulations on the horizon – plus, the Chancellor has announced more cost of living financial support for households, which your tenants may be able to access.

A single system of periodic tenancies – In one of the biggest changes announced the Government has stated its intention to introduce a single system of periodic tenancies. This will see fixed term tenancies abolished and all private tenancies will be periodic. This is to be a two tier process expected to be undertaken over a 12 month period.

Abolishing Section 21 Notices – the use of Section 21 will be outlawed under the reforms. This means that the tenancy will only end if the Tenant ends it or the landlord has a valid ground for possession. If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant under the new rules they must give the tenants two months’ notice in cases where eviction occurs for reasons outside of a tenant’s control, for example if a landlord wishes to sell or a property has been repossessed by a lender. Notice differs for other grounds such as rent arrears or anti-social behaviour and landlords will only be able to evict a tenant in reasonable circumstances which will be defined in the strengthened grounds under Section 8.

Improved Court Proceedings for Possessions – many court processes will be digitised to offer better advice and guidance and to also reduce common user errors. Part of the improved processes will include a Private Renters Ombudsman who will help assist redress earlier in the process to try and avoid tenants and landlords escalating issues to court. The Ombudsman will be given powers to compel landlords to take remedial action and pay compensation

Alongside the newly proposed ombudsman the Government will help tenants access more effective legal advice on debt, housing and welfare benefit matters. Mediation services will become an established part of the process and be the key to sustaining tenancies and avoiding costly and time-consuming court proceedings.

Applying the Decent Homes Standard to the Private Rented Sector – the standard and rating system – under review – currently covers all social housing and is proposed to include the private rented sector in the near future. This will include implementing a Housing Health and Safety Rating System to ensure a property will not put a tenant’s health or safety at risk.

New Property Portal – all landlords in the private rented sector will be legally required to register their properties on the new portal.

Improving Tenant Rights – Rent increases will be limited to one per year and the minimum notice of any change in rent will be increased to two months. A Section 13 to increase rent will need to be issued giving tenants the opportunity to challenge at the first-tier tribunal.

The Government will legislate to ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a Tenant requests to have a pet. At the same time the Tenant Fees Act will be amended to include pet insurance as a permitted payment.

The paper has outlined that it will become illegal for landlords to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.

Provisional date for new carbon monoxide and smoke alarm regulations

The extended regulations around carbon monoxide and smoke alarms have now been published in draft format, with a provisional deadline of 1 October 2022 for when they come into force in England. From that date, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 will be amended to also apply to social housing, rather than simply the Private Rented Sector. A carbon monoxide alarm will be required in any lived-in room with a fixed combustion appliance, excluding gas cookers, and a smoke alarm will need to be installed on each storey of a domestic property with “living accommodation”. Alarms will also need to be replaced or repaired within a reasonable time period by the agent or landlord, once tenants let them know of an issue.

Fire Safety Act 2021 commencement announced

The government has also announced the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021, which amends the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO). This primarily clarifies where the FSO applies and what the new responsibilities of the “responsible person” are. In buildings containing more than one home, the “responsible person” will need to organise a risk assessment of the structure of the property, its external walls, and all doors between the domestic areas and the shared parts – if these checks haven’t already been carried out.

New cost of living crisis financial support

The Government has revealed new financial support during the cost of living crisis, as Ofgem estimates that the next price cap increase in October 2022 will expand the average household’s bills by around £800 a year. The new support includes a one-off payment to all UK households of £400, as well as other one-off payments targeted at low-income and vulnerable groups, £650 for low-income households, £300 to top up the Winter Fuel Payment that eligible pensioner households receive, and £150 for those on disability benefits. This support can help if tenants are struggling to pay their rent and bills in the coming months and into winter 2022.