The Renters Reform Bill has landed! IMPORTANT UPDATE
THE RENTERS REFORM BILL HAS ARRIVED
You may have seen in the news recently that the Renters Reform Bill has been published by the government and will be making it’s way through into law over the next year.
The RRB will be making a number of changes to the existing laws around tenancies:
- Section 21 will be removed as a mechanism to evict tenants;
- Moving to more secure tenancies – no fixed tenancy terms
- Landlords will need to join an ombudsman scheme
- Houses will need to conform to the Decent Homes Standard
We feel the first two on this list are the most significant on the national stage and the fixed term tenancies will be the most significant for the student sector.
The abolition of Section 21 notices
For landlords in the student sector this will have a minimal effect. For landlords in the residential sector there will be an impact but it will likely be an unintended one; exemptions will remain for landlords selling or for moving in, however it will remove one of the current methods for evicting tenants. This notice method is often called (erroneously) a “No Fault” eviction, however it is often used where the tenant is at fault, and actually can mask the underlying reason, with the eviction method used because it is the simplest and often does not need a hearing. With that mask removed, the local authorities may find this helps them sidestep their obligations under the Homeless Reduction Act 2018 to avoid homelessness (as tenant arrears will now be a matter of legal record), and may have significant unintended consequences. The removal of Section 21 is achieved by removing the concept of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy – all tenancies will by default be Assured Tenancies. To assist landlords with evicting tenants with anti-social issues, there will be a mechanism to demote tenancies to Assured Shorthold Tenancies so there is a mechanism to evict using the normal existing grounds. This is to be welcomed especially in HMO properties.
Moving to more secure tenancies – no fixed terms
By default all new tenancies will be a periodic contract. As of writing this, it will apply across the board to all new tenancies, including student homes within the traditional student Private Rental Sector. This does not apply to the Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) market. These changes follow the model adopted in Scotland 5 years ago.
The removal of the fixed term contract will allow tenants to end the contracts early once their course ends (or earlier), and will also mean they have the right to remain in the property. That ability does exist now, however what it will mean is it would not be prudent to start the viewing and reservation process on a property until we have been given notice by the current tenants. There are practical considerations for tenants giving notice – being a joint contract if one gives notice, they all give notice, and will all need to move out. This will likely have a significant impact on tenants who need to move into student accommodation over summer, especially those from broken homes, who won’t be able to remain in a property nor secure a new property until current tenants give notice.
There are good signs that this will be reversed for student landlords with an article in the Telegraph regarding a potential u-turn, as well as negative coverage in national news (BBC) and international news (Washington Post). The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has recommended to the government that student landlords be exempt from this change. We at Topproperty have been working to make our views heard – in August 2022, when the white paper was released, we contacted our local MP (sadly, but not unexpectedly, with no response). We have also been in direct contact with the Chief Executive of the NRLA, Ben Beadle, feeding back our concerns. These concerns have been raised in all meetings the NRLA have had with the government including with the Housing Minister, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, as well as in press briefings. Our letter to our local MP is here.
Our view is that this change will have a negative impact on student landlords, if no allowance is made for them, but it will pale in comparison to the devastation it will cause to the students. As the Washington Post puts it, “Sadly, experience suggests that if changes in the law are bad for landlords, they’re even worse for tenants.”. In particular is the experience in Scotland, which had this change 5 years ago, where 12% of students found themselves homeless when starting their courses last year. Our letter to our local MP linked above was clear on this as well as our reading on the issues in Scotland.
What can I do?
We strongly recommend you contact your local MP and raise this issue with them. You can find your local MP here: As per our email the main emphasis is on the very negative effect on the lives of students. Our MP letter will give you the main talking points to raise with them – especially regarding landlords moving properties away from the student market, a significant shrinkage of the student market, and subsequent rent rises and uncertainty for students.
Do I need to worry?
At this stage, no. It will take at least a year to be come law, perhaps 18 months, and you’ll already have contracts set up for when the law comes and there will be a transition period. There is a reasonably strong chance there will be provisions for the student market. Judging from the change in Scotland, if it does come in in the proposed form, rents will increase to cover it, and we will continue to innovate and modify the model we work to to ensure we provide the best service and best outcome for our clients.
If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Simon and the Topproperty Team