How will the Renters Reform impact Bristol landlords?

Update – The bill did not get through the parliamentary process before Parliament was prorogued for the general election. This effectively means that any rental reform bill would need to start the process again and therefore leaves the reform of the rental market up in the air. It’s been just over a year since the Renters Reform Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons and the slow progress means the government were unable to get it passed in time. 

The rest of this article gives you an understanding of what was originally proposed, but we now wait on a new government to see what the future is for the reform. 

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

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, hopes the Bill receives “Royal Assent” by summer. We’d expect implementation to start shortly after that. The government is looking to offer a positive message to voters regarding this bill ahead of a general election. It sounds bullish but realistically the implementation of the Renters Reform bill will be staggered. 

What is in the Renters Reform Bill and what does it mean for Bristol landlords and their tenants? 

The bill has seen significant change as it’s progressed through the Parliamentary process. So, we’re giving Bristol landlords a brief update on the bill and how it could affect them. You can read the latest bill in full on the UK Parliament website. Although, you may need a coffee to get through it all! 

No more section 21 – but maybe not for a while

If you’ve heard anything about the Renters Reform, you must have heard about the manifesto headliner – abolishing section 21s. A section 21 notice (described as the “no-fault eviction”) allows landlords to regain possession of their property. Paving the way for ending an assured shorthold tenancy, without requiring a specific reason. Note: they don’t take effect before the end of a fixed-term tenancy.    

The impact of this bill is likely to be spread, as the current proposed rollout is staggered. It could be as early as 6 months after Royal Assent that a landlord will not be able to serve a section 21 on new tenancies. However, section 21 will remain a tool for landlords to use for any existing tenancies. The devil will be in the detail, as some tenancies already in place may be defined as new. For the existing tenancies section 21 won’t be abolished until the Lord Chancellor has assessed the possession order process in England. It’s difficult to know how long that assessment process will take… 

Section 8 – regaining possession of your Bristol rental

Where next for landlords wishing to regain possession? The likely answer is section 8. If passed there will still be some grounds where the landlord can regain possession. These currently include but are not limited to; selling, the landlord moving in (or a close family member), significant redevelopment, anti-social behaviour, breach of the tenancy agreement and very significant to our Bristol Student landlords they’ll be able to regain possession, for the next student year. This last point was to ensure that a supply of student housing was maintained.

Bye bye to periodic tenancies – but 6 months minimum is a welcome amendment

A big worry for some landlords was the potential removal of fixed-term tenancies, fearing a growth in short-term lets. Those concerned can, to a certain extent, be reassured with an amendment that’s been made. A 12-month tenancy agreement will be a thing of the past; there will be a minimum term of 6 months before a tenant can hand back the property. This means tenants will need to wait 4 months before they can serve 2-months’ notice to their landlord, effectively giving a 6-month minimum tenancy. From that point, landlords will have 2 months to find new tenants. That gives us plenty of time to help them avoid large void periods where possible. 

Section 13 must be served if wishing to increase rent

One amendment debated at committee stage was making section 13 notices the only way for a landlord to increase rent. This will need to be served with 2 months’ notice. A rent cap was proposed (by the opposition) and rejected by the committee. Tenants will, however, still be able to challenge a rent increase at tribunal if they believe it to be unreasonable. 

New Ombudsman compulsory for landlords 

As a trusted local Bristol letting agent, we are already regulated by The Property Ombudsman. Unless there are further changes, it looks like it will be compulsory for landlords to be registered to an approved redress scheme – local councils will be able to take enforcement action if a landlord fails to join, which could include large fines and even banning orders. Tenants will be able to raise a complaint with the ombudsman for things like landlord behaviour, repairs not being completed in a reasonable time and the standard of the property (including health and safety issues.)  The ombudsman is likely to have considerable powers including getting landlords to issue an apology, pay compensation and take action to put things right. 

Other headlines

We will continue to keep you up to date on the Renters Reform and if you are a managed landlord of The Letting Game we’ll help guide you through these changes.  

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.

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