No-fault evictions to be banned in reform of rental sector

Morenike Jotham

Landlords would be banned from evicting tenants with no justification as part of a long-promised overhaul of the private rental sector in England.

A new law to be tabled in Parliament would abolish no-fault evictions and end bans on tenants claiming benefits.

The bill would also make it easier for landlords to repossess properties from anti-social tenants.

Housing campaigners said the bill was a “huge opportunity” to improve the lives of the 11 million renters in England.

Under the new law, tenants would be given the legal right to request a pet in their home, which the landlord cannot unreasonably refuse.

The law would also make it illegal for a landlord to refuse tenancies to families with children, or those in receipt of benefits.

The full details of these reforms and how they will work in practice will be outlined in the Renters (Reform) Bill.

The Conservatives promised “a better deal for renters” – including a ban on no-fault evictions – in its manifesto ahead of the general election in 2019.

Boris Johnson’s government then set out plans to “fundamentally reform the private rented sector” in 2022, before Michael Gove, the communities secretary, promised legislation this year.

Section 21 evictions

At the heart of the bill is the abolishment of Section 21, a key piece of legislation that allows landlords to evict tenants without providing justification.

The government said a tenancy “will only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession”.

Last year, research by Shelter, a housing charity, said nearly 230,000 private renters had been served with a no-fault eviction notice since April 2019.

Among those to be issued with such a notice was Sam Robinson and his family, partner Amy Herbert, and daughters Phoebe, 10, and Amelia, four.

Sam Robinson and his family

The family rented a property in Greater Manchester for about five years.

They never missed a rental payment, and were happy with the property, until problems with mould and a leaking roof became progressively worse.

Mr Robinson said he reported the issue, and a few days after the property was inspected by the landlord, they were issued a Section 21 notice.

“I was heartbroken, I didn’t know what to say to my partner,” Mr Robinson said. “We’d made a family home there. We were there for the long term.”

Now the family are paying more rent after moving to another property near Manchester earlier this year.

Morenike Jotham, who lives in the London suburb of Streatham, has also had bad experiences with the rental market.

Ms Jotham said when she tried to enter negotiations with her previous landlord about a proposed rent increase last year, they responded by issuing a Section 21 notice.

She had tried to challenge the proposed rent increase, from £550 to £700 a month, because of the state of the house. She claimed there were boiler issues, faulty pipes and a mouse infestation.

She shared the flat with five other people for two years, including during an intense cold snap in February 2021 when, according to Ms Jotham, the boiler wasn’t functioning.

“We all had blankets wrapped around us,” Ms Jotham said. “We were all staying in the living room to preserve heat. It was really, really difficult.”

Ms Jotham, a paralegal, eventually moved out of the flat in September 2022 and into a different rented house in the same area.

She said she wanted to see landlords to take a more active role in dealing with maintenance requests and other issues raised by tenants.

Reforms promised

In recent months, housing campaigners have put the government under increasing pressure to urgently bring forward its package of reforms.

Those campaigners have long called for tenants to be given the right to a safe, secure and affordable homes, free from arbitrary evictions and escalating rent increases.

But other housing campaigners, as well as some Conservative MPs, have warned the bill could force more landlords to leave the market and reduce the supply of rental properties.

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Siobhan Donnachie, spokeswoman for the London Renters Union, said there was nothing in the bill banning “the huge and unfair rent increases our members are facing”.

She said: “A 20% rent hike is simply a no-fault eviction under a different name.”

The timeframe for the bill becoming law is not clear, but the government is keen to get the bill passed before the next general election, expected next year.

Mr Gove told the BBC the bill would make sure renters are “protected from the very small minority of rogue landlords who use the threat of no-fault eviction to silence tenants who want to complain about poor conditions”.

He said the bill was also a “good thing” for landlords because it would allow them to quickly evict tenants who are anti-social.

“What our legislation will do is give a fair deal to renters, and faster redress for landlords,” he said.

Labour’s shadow housing secretary, Lisa Nandy, said after years of delaying the reforms, “the private rented sector increasingly resembles the wild west and it’s far from clear that this government can deliver”.

If Labour wins the next general election, Ms Nandy said, the party would introduce reforms to make renting fairer, more secure and more affordable.

The reforms include a four-month notice period for landlords, a national register of landlords, and the right to make alterations to rented properties.

Landlord pushback

Landlords have expressed concerns about some of the reforms promised in the government’s Renters’ (Reform) Bill.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said landlords needed to be confident “they will be able to repossess their properties as quickly as possible”.

“Without this assurance, the bill will only exacerbate the rental housing supply crisis many tenants now face,” Mr Beadle said.

He said he welcomed a pledge, also in the bill, to ensure landlords can recover properties from anti-social tenants and those failing to pay rent.

But he added “more detail is needed if the bill is going to work as intended”.

When the bill is introduced, the government said it will legislate to:

  • Reduce notice periods where tenants have been irresponsible – for example, causing damage to the property
  • Empower a new ombudsman to provide quicker and cheaper resolutions to tenancy disputes
  • Set up a new online portal to help tenants make better decisions when signing a new tenancy agreement
  • Apply the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector to improve the quality of homes
  • Strengthen councils’ enforcement powers to help target criminal landlords

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