Bristol rental market – Latest on Renters Reform

The biggest legislation to impact the Bristol rental market seems like its been talked about for years. However, details behind the proposed Renters Reform legislation are starting to become clearer. The bill took a big step to become law as The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove brought the Renters (Reform) Bill to Parliament for its 2nd reading on Monday 23rd October.

During the early discussions, it drew some criticism over the amount of time it has taken to come to this stage. As a result there is a lot of pressure to make it happen. The opposition even stated they’d largely support it, aiming a few remarks at government backbenchers, particularly those who are landlords.

Renters Reform and the impact to Bristol landlords in the Bristol rental market

Landlords given more consideration  

It was refreshing to hear Michael Gove’s framing of the market. He highlighted the importance of the private rental market (between 19% and 20% of total housing in this country.) There was a recognition that there were certain rights a tenant should expect and deserve. Reassuringly for landlords in the Bristol rental market, there was also an acknowledgement that many landlords provide an excellent service. It does feel like more of a balance is being found between improving tenant rights and protecting good landlords.

So, the detail is starting to become a little clearer. However, its worth noting this is not law yet and there will likely be changes as the bill is debated. Although these are subject to change here are some of the key points we’ve picked up on: –

Abolishment of section 21’s

An election promise by the Conservatives – will almost certainly happen and is supported largely across the house. BUT…it won’t happen straight away. It was announced court reform and changes to landlord possession rights need to be in place before section 21’s go. So they’ll remain an option for landlords to regain possession of their Bristol properties for a while yet.

Strengthened grounds for possession

Tools will be put in place (largely under section 8), for landlords to regain possession of their property. This includes dealing with anti-social tenants, arrears and regaining use of their property (vacant possession) for grounds including moving in.

Moving and selling grounds

Landlords need to give 2 months’ notice to regain possession of their property for moving in or selling. To avoid misuse, a 3 month void period is required before the property can be re-advertised (should circumstances change.)

Court reform

Court reform is now a big part of the bill, before other elements can be implemented. This will include speeding up the process of regaining possession and digitisation.

Protecting student market

The big news is that the government have taken on board the need to regain possession of student properties. This recognises the cycle needed to maintain the level of available properties to the following University years. So, this will be considered within the legislation. However, student rentals are not planned to be exempt from the removal of fixed-term tenancies.

Abolition of fixed-term tenancies

Fixed-term tenancies will become a thing of the past, introducing a 2-month notice period for tenants, including student rentals. The government stated “We believe retaining fixed terms would unfairly lock students into contracts, meaning they could not leave if a property is poor quality, or their circumstances change. Student tenants should have the same flexibility as others.” This means all tenants will be able to leave a property with 2 months’ notice. Whereas, a landlord would need to meet one of the strengthened reasons to gain possession. The only exception to this being the previously mentioned protection of the student market.) Demand within the Bristol rental market is still high, so its unlikely to cause a big surge in shorter tenancies.

Privately rented property portal

A new digital portal will be introduced that will help landlords understand and demonstrate their responsibilities. The portal will also support the council’s enforcement against what was described as “unscrupulous landlords”. Private landlords are to submit their properties’ compliance information, the exact requirements will come out in due course. We will obviously support our managed landlords by ensuring they meet their legislative requirements.

Removing blanket bans

The government stated they’ll stop landlords and agents putting blanket bans on those in receipt of benefits or with children. The select committee did challenge for more ambition from the government; “Landlords who do not want to let to benefit recipients will simply choose not to do so.” The governments response was to make it clear that the landlord should have ultimate say on who rents their property.

Right to increase rent

The government doesn’t want to introduce rent controls, the rental value will remain an agreement between landlord and tenant. The government do want to make sure rent increases aren’t used as a “backdoor to eviction.” To avoid this a tenant can challenge a rent increase if they believe its above market value. If they can’t agree then it will go to a tribunal with an independent panel assessing the market price.

Pet requests can’t be unreasonably refused

When challenged by the select committee the government doubled down on their intention to allow tenants to request a pet. They touched on a few areas that might be considered ‘reasonable’ to refuse like properties with shared areas (tenants could have allergies or phobias), the animal is unsuitable e.g., too big. Tenants will not automatically be able to keep a pet on request. If the landlord declines then they would have to wait until the Ombudsman or a court ruled it unreasonable.

The spirit of the legislation is in line with our “Pet-friendly” push. We believe a tenant with a well-behaved pet can be an excellent option, we find they are often more likely to stay longer-term when they find a home for themselves and their pet. Obviously, there are some properties where it just isn’t appropriate.

EPC C from 2025 scrapped!

On the 20th of September, the Prime Minister announced he’d be scrapping the new legislation requiring landlords rented properties to achieve EPC C from 2025. However, landlords are still encouraged via government-backed schemes to improve energy efficiency.

More information is available on the UK Parliament site, rest assured we’ll keep you up to date.

Note: this article was written before the new legislation was published. This means some of the above is likely to change before it’s written into law.

Related Post