Renters (Reform) Bill: A Tour Bus Guide – Stop 1: Deposits, gas safety certificates and more
The Renters (Reform) Bill has been published. What does it say? What does it mean, for landlords and for tenants?
In this series, members of the 42BR Housing Team stop off at different landmarks, considering the implications of the new law along the way.
Throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
The Renters (Reform) Bill proposes to abolish assured shorthold tenancies and “no-fault” evictions under section 21.
That proposal raises an important question: will there still be effective enforcement for landlords who do not comply with their regulatory obligations?
After assured shorthold tenancies became the default, by virtue of the Housing Act 1996, a web of pre-conditions built up around section 21 notices, preventing landlords from using the no-fault eviction procedure unless they can show compliance with various requirements.
- Protecting the deposit and providing prescribed information
- Providing copies of gas safety certificates
- Providing copies of energy performance certificates
- Providing copies of the How To Rent booklet
- Complying with HMO licensing requirements
- Not charging the tenant prohibited fees
- Not demanding an excessive deposit
- No improvement notices served by the local authority in the previous 6 months
- Responding to the tenant’s written complaints about disrepair (no notice can be served unless the landlord responds within 14 days)
The Bill (while adding to and amending the current Schedule 2 Grounds for possession) also introduces a general requirement, except for anti-social behaviour cases under Grounds 7A and 14, to comply with deposit protection and information rules before a possession order can be made.
The proposed new rules appear to be less stringent than the current section 21 deposit protection rules. They only apply when the court considers making an order, not (as now) when the notice is served. Currently, landlords must protect the deposit within 30 days of receipt and provide the prescribed information before the notice is served. In future, they will be able to do both of these, or repay the deposit, at any time up to the hearing date.
But what about everything else?
There is no equivalent provision for any of the other requirements listed above. Undoubtedly, many landlords will welcome this simplification.
For tenants, there is a concern that other mechanisms for enforcing important statutory duties are not sufficiently effective: the relevant regulatory agencies – mainly local authorities – are seriously under-resourced; while many tenants are unaware of their rights to pursue civil claims (for breach of HMO licensing rules, for example), or simply cannot afford the legal assistance that they need.
It remains to be seen whether any additional requirements will be added, as the Bill progresses through Parliament.
A Tour Bus Guide to the Renters (Reform) Bill
Stop 1: Deposits, gas safety certificates and more
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