The Queen’s Speech has included plans for legislation that should radically reform the rental sector within the next parliament.
The speech, which was read out for the first time by Prince Charles, sets out plans for a ‘renters’ reform bill’ which the government said is designed to deliver a better deal for the 4.4m households in England’s private rented sector.
This is expected to effectively scrap no-fault evictions in England, by overturning section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act. This currently allows landlords to evict tenants without reason with just eight weeks notice. These reforms have long been mooted, and were first suggested by Theresa May back in April 2019.
Details of the bill, published after the speech, suggest that there this legislation will also improve landlords’ rights and give them more powers to tackle repeated rent arrears or anti-social behaviour among tenants.
The bill is also expected to set up a new ombudsman for private rented landlords to ensure disputes can be heard without the need for legal action. The bill is also likely to contain proposals to introduce a compulsory landlord register and potentially move towards lifetime deposits.
Rental experts Goodlord chief operating officer Tom Mundy says: “After so many delays, the Queen’s Speech has put the Renters’ Reform Bill back on the table. Although the Bill is set to introduce policies which divide opinion in the sector, the ongoing uncertainty around when these proposals would come into law wasn’t helping anyone.
“Now that it’s clearly back on the agenda, the government must provide letting agents, landlords and tenants the clarity they need to move forward with confidence. Uncertainty is no good for the market, especially one that’s grappling with an ever-changing set of regulations and new requirements.
“The industry now needs clear timelines so they can prepare accordingly. We hope this is a decisive step forward that will end the years of dithering, but the proof will be in what happens next.”
PayProp UK managing director Neil Cobbold says: “We welcome the remarks in the Queen’s Speech on the timetable for rental reform. We now have more clarity on this important area of government policy, but there remain a number of question marks over how it will be implemented.
“The changes to Section 21 and a beefed- up Section 8 have been on the agenda for some time but they continue to strongly divide opinion. the government will need to manage them carefully to ensure the interests of landlords agents and tenants alike are catered for.”
He adds: “The concept of lifetime deposits has been more widely welcomed but wasn’t mentioned in the plans for rental reform. In principle, making it faster and cheaper to move from tenancy to tenancy is a win for landlords, agents and tenants, but legitimate concerns remain about how this will work in practice if indeed it still forms part of the government’s plans.
“It’s clear that tech has a key role to play here, and we hope the industry is given a place at the table to discuss this.”
AIIC chair Daniel Evans adds: “While it’s a positive that a timetable for the White Paper and the Renters Reform Bill has now been set out, I don’t think anyone in the lettings industry will be jumping for joy until these plans start to see the light of the day.
“Will the government – distracted by everything from partygate to war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis and its own internal strife, worsened by the recent poor showing at the local elections – be able to keep its eye on the ball with something as major as widespread rental reform?
“We’ve heard for many years the plans to scrap Section 21, introduce a compulsory landlord register (as is already the case in Scotland) and implement lifetime deposits, but we’ve never really got any further than that.
“This latest announcement is a step in the right direction, but as we’ll remember from previous Queen Speeches, this isn’t the first time rental reform has been promised. Equally, pledges made in the Queen’s Speech aren’t always adhered to, so I think it’s important the industry doesn’t get too far ahead of itself.
“We all need a bit more clarity and certainty, and hopefully now we know the direction of travel with regards to rental reform, the momentum behind it will no longer falter.”