RRB #1: Latest changes to Renters Reform Bill


In this special episode of Good Landlording, Suzanne Smith and Richard Jackson discuss how recent government amendments to the Renters Reform Bill kick the implementation of some unpopular provisions for existing tenancies into the long grass, and some welcome amendments. They include changing the way the abolition of Section 21 will come into force for existing tenancies.

The government introduced these amendments to address “concerns” of some Conservative MPs about the Renters Reform Bill, and the amendments will be debated in the House of Commons during the Report Stage of the Renters Reform Bill on 24 April 2024.

As well as delaying the implementation of some of the parts of the Bill that have been unpopular with many Conservative MPs, there are some less controversial but nevertheless important amendments.

Richard and Suzanne explain which parts of the Renters Reform Bill the government is planning to delay, and the practical impact on landlords of the key government amendments.

Suzanne and Richard have since recorded another special episode, RRB #2: Why Renter Reforms might start in May 2025, which has detailed information on the expected implementation of the key parts of the Bill, with examples.

football sitting in long grass
Parts the Renters Reform Bill have been kicked into the long grass

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1. Lord Chancellor’s assessment to determine implementation of Renters Reform Bill for existing tenancies

It has been known for some time that some Conservative MPs were not happy with aspects of the Renters Reform Bill. This led to the progress of the Renters Reform Bill through the House of Commons being delayed for 5 months after the Committee Stage at the end of November 2023.

It had been widely signalled by the government that the abolition of Section 21 would be made subject to improvements in the court system for possession orders.

What had not been expected is that the implementation of other provisions in the Bill would also be made subject to improvements in the court system insofar as they relate to existing tenancies. (Note that new tenancies will not be delayed beyond the usual six month implementation period.)

This creates a two-track Renters Reform Bill with key parts of the Bill being delayed for existing tenancies until the Lord Chancellor publishes the assessment, with the rules for new tenancies and other parts coming into force earlier.

>> Related episode: RRB #2 – Why Renter Reforms might start in May 2025

What is the Lord Chancellor’s assessment?

The government proposes delaying the implementation of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Bill for existing tenancies until the Lord Chancellor has published an assessment to the effect that landlords are both able to get orders for possession from the county court when they apply, and they can get those orders enforced by bailiffs.

In other words, the backlogs in the county courts and with bailiffs need to be cleared, and the county courts need to be functioning efficiently.

It will be for the Lord Chancellor, a political appointee, to publish the assessment at such time, and in such manner, as they think appropriate.

Who is the Lord Chancellor?

The Lord Chancellor is the secretary of state for justice, responsible for the administration of the courts and legal aid in England and Wales. It’s a senior cabinet position.

Currently the Lord Chancellor is 47 year old barrister Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham. However, if the government changes, the Lord Chancellor changes.

Which parts of the Renters Reform Bill will be subject to the Lord Chancellor’s assessment?

These are the key aspects of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Renters Reform Bill that will not come into force until the Lord Chancellor’s assessment for existing tenancies:

  • Abolishing Section 21
  • New grounds for possession under Section 8
  • The abolition of Assured Shorthold Tenancies (which can be for a fixed term) and replacement with rolling, periodic, monthly Assured Tenancies
  • Changes to increasing rent – landlords will need to serve a section 13 notice
  • Implied right for tenants to keep a pet

>> Useful resources: The Independent Landlord RRB Hub

Which parts of the Renters Reform Bill be subject to the Lord Chancellor’s assessment?

The following parts of the Renters Reform Bill are not linked to the Lord Chancellor’s assessment of the functioning of country court process for orders for possession:

  • New Landlord Redress Scheme (to be operated by the Housing Ombudsman)
  • New prohibition of discrimination against tenants with families or tenants on benefits
  • New PRS Database (property portal)
  • Extension of the Decent Home Standard to the private rented sector
  • Changes to Rent Repayment Orders
  • The implementation of the Bill for new tenancies that come into effect after the Bill’s commencement date. (It is expected that the implementation for new tenancies will be at least six months after Royal Assent).

How long might the Lord Chancellor’s assessment of the county court process take?

It’s difficult to know just how long it will take before the Lord Chancellor is prepared to certify that the county court possession process is operating adequately. It could take years before Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Renters Reform Bill comes into effect for existing tenancies.

However, to get this in perspective, it was always intended that the implementation for existing tenancies would come in later than the rest of the Bill. The White Paper, A Fairer Private Rented Sector, referred to at least 18 months after Royal Assent. The Bill now links it to the Lord Chancellor’s assessment instead, and we don’t know how long that will take.

>> Related blog post: The Independent Landlord Implementation Timetable

2. Minimum tenancy to be six months

Whereas the original draft of the Bill enabled tenants to terminate their tenancy agreement by a notice to quit of two months at any time, the government amendment states that a notice to quit is not valid until the end of the first 6 months.

This is intended to prevent short term lets by back door, which has been a big worry for landlords, particularly in city centres. Tenants could have let a property, and then immediately given two months’ notice. Now they will have to wait six months before they can leave.

However, there will not be a longer minimum tenancy for student lets; students will also be able to leave after six months.

3. Widened scope for Mandatory Ground 4A for student tenancies

The previous draft of the RRB introduced a new ground for possession for landlords of HMOs with full-time students who are joint tenants.

This has now been changed to include properties that are not HMOs, and the students need not be on a joint tenancy. They still need to be full time students.

4. Changes to Rent Repayment Orders

Another amendment will make it possible to make a rent repayment order against a “director or other officer” or a company that has committed a relevant offence.

5. Change to Grounds 1 and 1A for landlords selling up or moving in

A landlord won’t be able to offer their property as a short term let (eg on Airbnb) in the 3 months after they’ve relied on Ground 1 (landlord or family to occupy the property) or Ground 1A (sale) to gain possession of a property.

The property also won’t be able to be marketed for the during this 3 month restricted period.

6. Local authorities’ “prevention of homeless duty” to start earlier

Local authorities have a duty to prevent homelessness, and a new clause states that a person will be classed as “threatened with homelessness” if they have been given a valid Section 8 notice and the date specified in the notice is within 56 days.

This brings forward the prevention of homelessness duty owed by local authorities from actual eviction to the service of a valid notice in certain circumstances.

Final thoughts

Although many of the amendments are welcome, the implementation of the Renters Reform Bill for existing tenancies is now linked to the performance of the county courts, as determined by the Lord Chancellor. This delays some of the provisions that have been unpopular with Conservative MPs for an indefinite period, rather than the defined amount of time (at least 18 months) as originally envisaged.

Consequently, although the government will be able to saying they have abolished Section 21, as promised in their 2019 manifesto, it won’t actually come into force any time soon for existing tenancies.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. (Keep it clean!)

Credits

Music: Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Special episode #1 big changes to Renters Reform Bill with ball in long grass

4 thoughts on “RRB #1: Latest changes to Renters Reform Bill”

  1. Very Nimble to act so quickly to translate the RRB amendments. Very interesting to hear your thoughts about what Labour ‘might’ do.

  2. Really interesting podcast and love the fact you make it easy to listen to. Also great that you have the notes (again easy to read) on your website. Thank you

  3. Very early stages of landlording here, but… surely if we move from ASTs to the PAT? Rolling monthly contracts, we are in almost thr same place as with section 21 notices? Is that not suggesting landlords can simply not renew after one month and then raise rents? Am I missing something?
    Confused 😕

    1. Once we move onto periodic assured tenancies, landlords won’t be able to use Section 21 notices to terminate a tenancy, and will only be able to use one of the grounds under Section 8. Landlords will only be able to raise rent once a year using a Section 13 notice Tenants will be able to terminate at any time after the first 6 months with 2 months’ notice. You might find this blog post on the 10 key changes useful. We’ll do more on the podcast about it.

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