Thank you for contacting me about reforming the private rented sector.
I am confident that the Renters (Reform) Bill will help create a fairer rental market in England. The legislation will see tenants protected from revenge evictions and rogue landlords, and landlords given greater powers to evict anti-social tenants. Through the Renters (Reform) Bill, tenants who would previously have had an assured tenancy or assured shorthold tenancy will move onto a single system of periodic tenancies. This will offer greater security while retaining the flexibility that attracts many tenants to the private rented sector.
I welcome the Government's intention to abolish Section 21 'no fault' evictions, which I recognise can deter tenants from challenging poor practice or unfair rent increases in fear they will be forced out of their home. A tenancy will only come to an end if the tenant chooses to leave or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession. Tenants will need to give two months’ notice when leaving a tenancy which would ensure that landlords can avoid lengthy void periods.
I also support measures in the Bill to introduce more comprehensive possession grounds so landlords can still recover their property, including where they wish to sell their property or move in close family. I recognise that many landlords may struggle to recover their properties when faced with anti-social behaviour and wilful non-payment of rent and the legal landscape can sometimes be difficult to navigate. The Renters (Reform) Bill will introduce more comprehensive possession grounds so landlords can still recover their property, including where they wish to sell their property or move in close family. It will also make it easier for landlords to repossess properties where tenants are at fault, for example in cases of anti-social behaviour and repeat rent arrears. I believe these are important steps in the absence of Section 21, to ensure landlords have the peace of mind that they can regain their property when their circumstances change or tenants do not fulfil their obligations.
These changes come in addition to new powers to create a Private Rented Sector Ombudsman which will provide fair, impartial and binding resolutions to many issues in the sector. The Ombudsman will allow tenants to seek redress for free, where their landlord has failed to deal with a legitimate complaint about their tenancy. The Government will also set up a Private Rented Property Portal which will increase transparency and the information available to tenants before they decide to rent a property.
Income and family discrimination: No one should be barred from consideration as a prospective tenant simply because they have children or are in receipt of benefits. I share your view that such practises are unacceptable and have no place in a modern housing market. The Government has committed to bringing forward legislation to make it illegal for landlords and agents to have blanket bans on renting to tenants in receipt of benefits or with children. While this measure is not included in the Renters (Reform) Bill, as currently drafted, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has committed to implementing this reform and has said it will bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity.
Damp and mould: Every single person in this country deserves to live in a home that is safe, warm and dry. The Government has committed to bringing forward legislation at the earliest opportunity to apply the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector. Last year, the Government held a consultation on this, and I look forward to reading the consultation outcome. Separately, I welcome that the Government has recently published guidance on understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould, which has been developed with housing and health experts. As the guidance makes clear: “Damp and mould in the home are not the result of ‘lifestyle choices’, and it is the responsibility of landlords to identify and address the underlying causes of the problem, such as structural issues or inadequate ventilation.”
Independent Age briefing: Thank you for sharing the Independent Age briefing on the Renters (Reform) Bill with me. I completely agree that the Bill includes important measures for older renters and I share your view that reforms such as abolishing Section 21 evictions represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the private rented sector.
Second Reading: I warmly welcome your enthusiasm for the Renters (Reform) Bill and, as I hope I have demonstrated above, I completely agree that it is an important piece of legislation. Forthcoming business for the House of Commons is announced by the Leader of the House each Thursday that the House is sitting. I am assured that Ministers are aware of the interest that many tenants and landlords take in this legislation, and I look forward to receiving confirmation of the date for the Bill's Second Reading soon.
I believe that these reforms will benefit both tenants and landlords, and I look forward to discussing this legislation in more detail as it makes its way through Parliament.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP