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The latest on the Renters Reform Bill

renters reform bill showing on a pink macbook air

The Renters Reform Bill was abandoned in the run up to the prorogation of parliament on 24 May 2024, and it will not now become an Act of parliament.

This blog post describes what happened during the various stages of the Bill, before it fell in the run up to the general election.

Blog post last updated: 25 May 2024

>> Related Post: Renters Reform Bill Hub

>> Related Post: How to get ready for the Renters Reform Bill

What happened to the Renters Reform Bill?

The many delays during its controversial passage through parliament meant that it was not sufficiently advanced to receive Royal Assent before the general election in the “wash-up” process.

This means that the Renters Reform Bill will never become law, and the new government would need to start again with new legislation.

>> Related Post: Renters Reform Timetable

What happened in Second Reading of Renters Reform Bill in House of Lords?

Second Reading debate of the Renters Reform Bill in the House of Lords
Second Reading debate of the Renters Reform Bill in the House of Lords on 15 May 2024

The Renters Reform Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 15 May 2024.

During the Second Reading, peers debated the pros and cons of the Renters Reform Bill, without getting into granular detail on each Section. As is usual, no amendments were proposed or debated. This will take place at the next step, which is the Committee Stage.

Here are the highlights from the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords:

1. Update on the abolition of Section 21

Baroness Swinburne listed what needs to happen before the government will “switch on the Section 21 ban”.

  • A “raft of secondary legislation” and “important consequential amendments to other legislation” will be needed after Royal Assent.
  • The publication of guidance “so that the sector is fully prepared for the new system”.
  • The updating of court rules and systems to reflect these new rules, and “aligning changes to the tenancy system with improvements in the courts”, to include the digitisation of the county court possession system. The government is investing “some £11 million this year to design this new digital system”.
  • Other target areas for improvement include the prioritisation of certain serious cases such as anti-social behaviour and improving bailiff enforcement by enhancing recruitment and retention practices. We will also provide early legal advice and better signposting for tenants.
  • She repeated their commitment to ensuring that county courts are ready to deal with the tenancy reforms “so that landlords and tenants can benefit from a modern, efficient possession system”.

The sum of £11 million is a modest sum to digitise the county court possession system. Although she referred to the Lord Chancellor’s “assessment” of the readiness of the county court system, she did not say they would ensure it is in fact ready before abolishing Section 21.

It is worth noting that Section 21 will be abolished for new tenancies after the Commencement Date, regardless of the state of the county court possession process. As currently drafted, existing fixed term tenancies entered into before the main Commencement Date will convert into “new tenancies” when the fixed term expires.

2. Exemptions to the minimum six-month initial period

Baroness Swinburne confirmed that the government were “exploring potential exemptions to the minimum six-month initial period where it is absolutely necessary for the tenant to end the tenancy early”, giving the example of where a tenant has died, where there is domestic abuse or where “a landlord has not remedied a serious health hazard such as severe damp or mould”.

The government have not yet published amendments to the Bill that will set out these exemptions.

3. Decent Homes Standard for the PRS

Baroness Swinburne promised that the Decent Homes Standard for the PRS would be “proportionate and fair” and confirmed they were “working closely with the sector to co-design it and make sure the balance is right between landlords and tenants”.

She did not indicate when the proposals will be published, other than “in due course”.

4. Support of the Labour Party for the Bill

Although the Shadow Levelling Up Minister, Baroness Taylor of Stevenage complained the Bill had been “watered down”, she said that “some of the elements of the Bill” were very welcome, including compulsory periodic tenancies, extending the Decent Homes Standard and the “important right for tenants to keep a pet”.

She concluded her speech by saying “we [Labour] have no intention of holding up the Bill as it will put in place some provisions that will improve things for renters”.

House of Commons Report Stage: Amendments to the Renters Reform Bill

Matthew Pennycook and Angela Rayner during the debate at the Report Stage of the Renters Reform Bill in the House of Commons
Labour’s Matthew Pennycook and Angela Rayner during the debate on the Renters Reform Bill on 24 April 2024

Here is an overview of the key amendments that were added to the Renters Reform Bill by the House of Commons at the Report Stage:

1. An initial six-month tenancy before tenants can serve notice to quit

The previous draft of the Renters Reform Bill abolished fixed term tenancies, and allowed tenants to serve a notice to quit at any time. This means that tenants would have been able to serve notice to quit on day one, effectively turning long-term tenancies into short-term lets.

The new clause states that a tenant may give two months’ notice to expire not earlier than six months from the date the tenancy begins. This means that a tenant can serve two months’ notice after four months.

The landlord can waive this requirement and allow the tenant to give notice to quit earlier.

Jacob Young had previously confirmed that they “will bring forward an amendment to prevent tenants ending contracts in a tenancy’s first six months. We are considering exemptions, such as the death of a tenant, or domestic abuse, or significant hazards in the property”, but these amendments have not been tabled by the government to date.

There is no carve out for student tenancies. This means it’s likely that student houses will be empty from June to August, and it’s entirely predictable that the usual 12 months’ rent will be split across 9 months. Consequently, those who wish to stay the whole year (including PhD students and those who don’t want to move out in May) will end up paying considerably higher rent.

2. Abolition of Section 21 and implementation for existing tenancies subject to report on county court performance

A new section requires the Lord Chancellor to assess the operation of the county court possession order process in England and its enforcement before Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Bill can come into force for existing tenancies, on what is termed “the extended application date”.

This delays implementation of the Renters Reform Bill for existing tenancies until the publication of the assessment. Although it is arguably implicit, the current draft of the Bill does not state that the assessment needs to be positive, or that Lord Chancellor is satisfied that the county court system for possession orders is functioning properly.

Also, the substance of this new mechanism is not so different from the transition arrangements that were set out in the White Paper A Fairer Private Rented Sector, of having at least 18 months after Royal Assent before the rules would change for existing tenancies, including the abolition of Section 21. Therefore the requirement of 18 months’ notice has now been replaced by the Lord Chancellor’s assessment.

What are existing tenancies?

Leading housing solicitor David Smith advises: “the commencement provisions make clear that any tenancy which is created or renewed after that commencement date as well as any tenancy which moves from fixed term to periodic will cease to be an AST and will fall within the RRB. As most ASTs are for six or twelve months that means that the vast majority of existing tenancies would switch over during the following year, even if the government did nothing more.”

That said, David has also confirmed that periodic tenancies that roll over from before the commencement date will be considered as “existing tenancies”

This “commencement date” is likely to be at least 6 months after Royal Assent.

>> Useful resource: David Smith blog post – When exactly will Section 21 be abolished?

What is the Lord Chancellor’s assessment of the operation of the county court possession process?

The Lord Chancellor must “prepare an assessment of the operation of the process” by which landlords apply to the county court for an order for possession and its enforcement.

It’s not entirely clear what will be in the Lord Chancellor’s assessment. However, instead of being the set amount of time referred to in the White Paper, we now have an open-ended trigger point.

However, as this requirement is included in the Bill, it would require primary legislation to repeal. This will make it harder but not impossible for a change of government to unpick this provision. That said, a new government could decide to carry out an assessment at any time.

What is in Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Renters Reform Bill?

Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Bill is the “meat” of the Renters Reform Bill. This means that the implementation for existing tenancies of the following key provisions of the Renters Reform Bill will linked to improvements in the county court possession system:

What is not in Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Renters Reform Bill?

Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Bill does not include the Landlord Redress Scheme (Housing Ombudsman), the removal of the “AST Trap” for long leases, the prohibition of discrimination against tenants with families or tenants on benefits, the PRS Database, Decent Home Standard and the changes to Rent Repayment Orders.

The implementation of these other provisions in the Bill will therefore not be linked to the Lord Chancellor’s assessment of the country court possession order process.

What’s happening with Section 21 for new tenancies?

New tenancies are tenancies which parties enter into, renew or change from fixed term to periodic on or after the commencement date of the Renters Reform Act, according to David Smith. This is likely to be at least six months after Royal Assent. (Note it’s not the date the tenancy starts that counts, but the date the tenancy is entered into).

New tenancies include tenancies which are entered into or are “renewed

These new tenancies will be periodic assured tenancies, and landlords won’t have the right to use Section 21. They also won’t be able to have a fixed term.

The Lord Chancellor’s assessment and delayed abolition of Section 21 only apply to existing tenancies.

A big caveat: we still don’t know definitively the ins and outs of the transition arrangements, as the regulations that will implement the Renters Reform Bill have not been published. But this is my understanding at the present time.

>> Useful resource: David Smith blog post – When exactly will Section 21 be abolished?

3. Further strengthening rent repayment orders

The rent repayment order regime relating to offences in Section 72 of the Housing Act 2004 (unlicensed HMOs) and Section 95 Housing Act 2004 (unlicensed houses) so that they can be committed by landlords, licensors and by superior landlords and licensors. This means it will be possible to make rent repayment orders against all these persons.

It will also be possible to make a rent repayment order against a “director or other officer of a body corporate” which has committed an offence to which Chapter 4 of Part 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 applies. This means the court will be able to “pierce the corporate veil” and take action against directors and other officers who are not directors of a company that commits one of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 offences.

>> Related Post: The new rent repayment order rules

4. Report into the impact tenancy reform and effectiveness of Section 8

The Secretary of State must arrange for an “independent person” to prepare a report within 18 months of the “extended application date” (when Chapter 1 of Part 1 comes into effect) on the following:

  • The impact of the replacement of fixed term tenancies with rolling periodic assured tenancies.
  • The extent to which the grounds for possession under Section 8 “operate effectively; are comprehensive; and are fair”.

The Secretary of State must also issue a response to the report within 18 months of the “extended application date”

5. Annual analysis of statistical data on “residential tenancies”

The Secretary of State will be required to publish an annual report for the first 5 years following Royal Assent that contains data on the following:

“(a) the number of dwellings let under residential tenancies;
(b) the location of those dwellings;
(c) the size of those dwellings.”

6. Change to a Ground 1 and Ground 1A of Section 8

A landlord will not be able to issue a licence to occupy their property (eg holiday let or other short term let) within 3 months of relying on Ground 1 (landlord or family to occupy) or 1A (sale) to gain possession of it, with certain exceptions.

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

7. Changes to Ground 4A student tenancies

The previous draft of the Bill included a specific Ground for Possession for HMO students. The Bill has now been amended so it includes tenancies to all full-time students, not just joint tenants in an HMO.

The other requirements stay the same, ie:

  • The tenants must be full-time students, or the landlord needs to have reasonable grounds to believe they would become a full-time student during the tenancy.
  • The landlord must give at least two months’ notice, with the notice to expire between 1 June and 30 September.
  • The landlord must intend to let the property to full-time students or those who the landlord believes will become full-time students during the tenancy.
  • For students in England and Wales, the student must be studying one of these full-time higher education courses.

8. Changes to definition of “threatened with homelessness”

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 where the date is within 56 days, but will not include the many grounds where the notice period is two months.

>> Related Post: Guide to evicting tenants with the New Section 8

The Committee Stage of the Renters Reform Bill

Sessin of the Renters Reform Bill committee on 14 Novemer - Ben Beadle is speaking as a witness iin the foreground
Ben Beadle, NRLA CEO, addressing the committee on 14 November (centre foreground)

The Committee Stage of the Renters Reform Bill started on 14 November 2023, and was shepherded through the committee by Junior Levelling Up Minister, Jacob Young. He was a last minute replacement for Rachel Maclean, the Housing Minister who was sacked on 13 November.

The witnesses for the oral evidence section are stakeholders and interested parties from the wider private rented sector. They range from Shelter, Citizens Advice, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Crisis, Generation Rent and Renters’ Reform Coalition to the NRLA, Propertymark, and the British Property Federation. Other witnesses include academics, lawyers, Trading Standards, the Local Government Association and The National Union of Students.

After two days of oral evidence from a wide range of witnesses, the Committee moved onto debating every clause of the Bill, and amendments from the government and opposition.

Key clauses and amendments passed in the Committee Stage of the Renters Reform Bill

The Committee completed its consideration of the clauses in the original draft of the Bill, and amendments tabled by the government and opposition. The short version is that the Renters Reform Bill as drafted, plus the government amendments, were approved and the Bill has now been “reported” to the House of Commons for debate in the Report Stage. The date for the Report Stage has not yet been fixed.

Here is a link to the Committee Stage Decisions and this is a new version of the Bill which incorporates the amendments at the Committee Stage. Another version will be produced when the Bill goes to the House of Lords.

Here is a summary of the decisions of the Committee on the key clauses:

  • Clause 1 Assured tenancies to be periodic with rent period not exceeding a month – passed. This means that as the Bill currently stands, there will be no minimum fixed term period.
  • Clause 2 – Abolition of assured shorthold tenancies – passed. This means that the default tenancy will now be an assured tenancy. As this clause deletes Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the Housing Act 1988, it also means that the Committee has approved the abolition of Section 21, subject to the transition provisions.
  • Clause 3 Changes to grounds of possession – passed, with the inclusion of a reference to the new Mandatory Ground 4A for student HMOs.
  • Schedule 1 – Changes to Grounds of possession – passed. This is the detailed schedule with the new Grounds For Possession which I have summarised in this blog post: Guide to Terminating Tenancies with the New Section 8.
  • Clause 4 – Form of notice of proceedings for possession – passed. This clause allows the Secretary of State to make regulations for the form which landlords will need to use, which will be a revised version of the current Form 3 used for Section 8 notices.
  • Clause 5 – Statutory procedure for increases of rent – passed. This is makes it compulsory for landlords to use a Section 13 notice if they wish to increase the rent. Landlords will need to give two months’ notice to increase the rent. An amendment by a Labour MP to introduce a rent cap was not passed.
  • Clause 6 – Challenging amount or increase of rent – passed. This clause sets out the process for tenants to challenge the rent or rent increase at the First Tier Tribunal. The Opposition’s amendments to prevent the Tribunal for increasing the rent to an amount higher than the landlord originally requested were not passed. Also, the Opposition’s attempt to outlaw “bidding wars” for rental properties was not passed. The Labour Party amendment had proposed prohibiting both landlords and letting agents from “inviting or encouraging” to pay a rent higher than the amount stated in the listing, although a prospective tenant could offer more.
  • Clause 7 – Right to request permission to keep a pet – passed. The Opposition’s amendments to reduce the landlord’s time period for consideration of a request to keep a pet from 42 days to 14 days were not passed. Jacob Young (Housing Minister) said guidance would be published, but would not give a date.
  • Clause 8 – Pet insurance – passed. There was a detailed discussion about how pet insurance will work in practice.
  • Clause 9 – Duty to give statement of terms and other information – amended. This was replaced by an amendment which had been tabled by the government to extend the obligation to “contractors”, ie letting agents, with the heading “Duty of landlord and contractor to give statement of terms and other information”.
  • Clause 10 – Other duties of landlords and former landlords – amended. This clause was replaced by an amendment tabled by the government so to extend the prohibition on re-letting after relying on Ground 1 (landlord selling up) or Ground 1A (landlord or family moving in) to “persons acting or purporting to act on behalf of landlords” (eg letting agents) as well as landlords themselves.
  • Clause 11 – Landlords etc: financial penalties and offences – passed with government amendments. One amendment makes it an offence for landlords and “people acting on their behalf, or purporting to do so” (eg letting agents), to serve notice using a ground for possession on which the landlord is not entitled to rely, if the tenant surrenders the tenancy within 3 months following service of the notice. Another government amendment makes it possible for directors of a company to be prosecuted for offences committed by the company.
  • Clause 74 – Rent Repayment Orders (Offences) – the offences listed in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 will be extended continuing or repeat breaches of the PRS database and PRS Ombudsman, and providing false or misleading information to the PRS database. (See my blog post on Rent Repayment Orders for more information).
  • Clause 78 – Rent Repayment Orders (General) – doubles the maximum amount of rent that a landlord might be ordered to repay from 12 months to 24 months. Enables the First-tier Tribunal to make an order against a “superior landlord” in a rent-to-rent structure, reversing the decision in Jepsen v Raksusen. (See this post on Rent-to-Rent for more information).

>> Related Post: The 10 key changes in the Renters Reform Bill

Latest on the Renters Reform Bill

16 thoughts on “The latest on the Renters Reform Bill”

  1. This site is absolutely what the PRS needs, good accurate well balanced reporting well written, well updated. With this caliber of insight into the lot of the private landlord I really hope that Suzanne Smith rises to become the leading representative of the PRS which is ‘crying out’ for competent leadership.

  2. Absolutely agree with Anthony Richard’s comment.

    Pity the RLA isn’t doing this: I read their news though am not a member, partly as they think removal of S21 is okay (and more bolstering of Section 8 is needed from my experience, so am writing to my MP).

    Only thing I’d add to the great commentary is where the blog says landlords will pay for e.g. registration and ombudsman. True, but in the end tenants will probably end up paying through increased rents. In the same way as they ended up paying for necessary referencing etc. work that was made subject to the Tenants Fee Ban – costs which agents and landlords were unlikely to absorb (which prompted me to increase rents for the first time mid-tenancies).

    1. You’re right. Increases do get passed on one way on another. I know that the ban on tenant fees has made many landlords leave expensive letting agents and use services like OpenRent. Now we’re in an era of high inflation, I think most landlords will now increase rents in-tenancy. Even if it’s just a small amount, like up to 5%.

  3. New to the site, but I completely endorse Anthony’s comment. An outstanding resource and fantastically straightforward to navigate to find answers.
    I don’t agree with the implied or actual criticism of Ben Beadle and the NRLA, though. Anyone who went through the decades in which landlord bodies were near-silent on the true issues of the PRS, time in which the Shelter/Generation Rent agenda became mainstream press-fodder and fatally undermined the quiet role that ordinary well-intentioned landlords saving for their pensions play in providing housing that social policy has failed to do, ought to be pleased that Ben’s ability to get onside with the politicians has given landlords a recognised voice.
    NRLA support for the direction of the RRB has to recognise that the Section 21 train has left the station – no amount of ranting against the perceived injustice was going to get him a seat at the table. This is a political issue now and working to quietly persuade the current Government has got to be more productive than the inevitable face-off with the other mob.

    1. I agree. I’m a huge fan of Ben Beadle and the NRLA, and am proud to be an NRLA Accredited Landlord. I think they’ve done so much to change the narrative about landlords, and my number one bit of advice to anyone becoming a landlord is that they should join the NRLA.

  4. Outstanding, incisive commentary. I’m a renter, with a legal (though not Landlord and Tenant) background, and have found getting to grips with the draft legislation really difficult. Suzanne, I now discover, is doing all the hard work for me! Thank you Suzanne.

    1. Thank you Paul! I try to make the posts even-handed and objective, so they’re as useful for renters as landlords. I even have a detailed guide for renters (search under Renter Guides in the categories).

  5. As much as I think that the NRLA, and it’s now apparent influence/involvement with Whitehall, are doing a good job overall I do get the feeling that on occasion it has the appearance of cosying up to Ministers rather than robustly challenging them. The difficulty with the RRB and undergraduate student market I believe has highlighted that. The current RRB proposition is totally unworkable for the student sector and, I suspect now, will remain so. There are some very basic flaws that I would have expected to hear the NRLA lobbying to change but, having listened to, watched and read everything I can find that is in the public domain, but that just hasn’t happening. A acceptance that ‘we’re just not going to get,’ and therefore not fighting for I believe isn’t good enough. There is clearly a crack of an opening with this specific issue within the RRB, in that the government have identified the cyclical issue it would create within the PBSA sector, so why is there not more emphatic public criticism of this from the NRLA.

    1. I agree that it’s completely nonsensical for student lets not to have a fixed term. However, I do take issue with your comments about the NRLA not robustly challenging ministers. I listened to Ben Beadle make these points about the student market to the Select Committee earlier this year, at the public hearing in the House of Commons at the Committee Stage and I also read the NRLA’s formal written submission to the Committee. At the NRLA conference, Ben Beadle invited a student landlord to make these points to Michael Gove. They’ve lobbied MPs direct as well. As for us, we should keep writing to our MPs, and pointing it out to them. The Report Stage would be a good opportunity for MPs to raise it on the floor of the House of Commons. I’ve had two meetings with mine and have sent a lot of emails on the topic.

  6. A question on rent increases. If the tenancy agreement already includes a clause for an annual rent increase, eg CPI, would the Landlord still have to use the s.13 procedure when the RRB comes into force?
    If so, what “status” would rent increase clauses that have already been agreed have?

    1. My understanding is that once the Renters Reform Bill comes into effect for existing tenancies, rent review clauses in tenancy agreements will be null and void. This means they’ll have to use the s13 procedure. That said, we’re still waiting to hear precisely what the transition arrangements will be.

  7. “The new clause states that a tenant may give two months (unless the landlord agrees to a shorter period of notice) not earlier than six months from the date the tenancy begins.”
    As I read it that is the Tenant can’t leave if that notice falls within six months (i.e. two months’ notice after four months) rather than serving notice earlier than six months. Is that your understanding?

    Source: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2024-04-24b.964.2
    “(i) no earlier than any time, within the period of six months beginning with the day on which the terms of the tenancy provide for the tenancy to begin, that the landlord has agreed to in writing”

    1. My understanding is that a tenant could serve a notice to quit with 2 months’ notice after 4 months, so long as the notice expires after the end of 6 months. I’ve tweaked the post to spell this out more clearly. Thanks for your comment.

  8. The parliamentary wash up is done with the RRB not complete.

    The Leasehold Reform Bill has passed.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/leasehold-reforms-become-law

    Thus RRB remains a future threat with the party ahead in the polls saying they will complete the RRB in their first 100 days, with no regard to Court reforms needed to have a feasible process.

    Why would any property owner start a tenancy agreement not knowing how many years the Court and Bailiffs would keep them waiting for vacant possession…

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