'Once-in-a-generation' rental reforms unveiled by government include ban on no-fault evictions and right to request pets

17 May 2023, 06:03 | Updated: 17 May 2023, 10:21

Long-promised plans to abolish so-called no-fault evictions will be introduced to Parliament on Wednesday
Long-promised plans to abolish so-called no-fault evictions will be introduced to Parliament on Wednesday. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Long-awaited plans to overhaul the private rental sector will be introduced to Parliament on Wednesday, the government has announced.

The Renters' (Reform) Bill will allow tenants to challenge landlords without losing their home, ban no-fault evictions and give tenants the legal right to request a pet, which the landlord will not be able to "unreasonably" reject.

A new ombudsman will be set up to oversee dispute resolutions while a digital "property portal" will be set up to assist property managers in understanding their obligations, Michael Gove said.

Mr Gove said the plans represent a "new deal" with "fairness at its heart" - but critics argue reforms are "long overdue" and the Bill fails to protect tenants from rent hikes being used to circumvent the new rules.

"Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them," the Housing Secretary said.

"This Government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a new deal to those living in the private rented sector; one with quality, affordability and fairness at its heart."

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Housing Secretary Michael Gove
Housing Secretary Michael Gove. Picture: Getty

The Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities estimate the plans will affect around 11 million tenants in England, as well as two million landlords.

It will also be easier for landlords to evict anti-social tenants, including those who regularly do not pay their rent on time.

Notice periods will be reduced where renters have been "irresponsible" - for example, by breaching their tenancy agreement or causing damage to the property, according to the Government.

The Bill also seeks to make it illegal for landlords and agents to impose blanket bans on renting to benefit claimants or families with children, and apply home quality standards to the private rented sector for the first time.

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Campaigners welcomed the "once-in-a-generation" announcement, but union members warned that people renting out their homes may be able to "circumnavigate" the rules by using large rent hikes to force unwanted tenants out.

Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of campaign group Generation Rent, said the legislation is a "huge opportunity" to improve the lives of tenants across England.

"Abolishing (no-fault evictions) will take away much of the stress of renting and improve communication and trust between tenants and landlords.

"The new property portal and ombudsman have the potential to make it much harder for criminal landlords to operate.

"These reforms wouldn't be happening without the tireless campaigning of members of the Renters Reform Coalition and thousands of renters over many years.

"We look forward to reading the Bill and working with ministers and parliamentarians to make sure the legislation achieves what it sets out to do."

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But Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy pointed to "years of delay" in introducing the plans, saying: "The Government first promised reform for tenants in the private rented sector over four years ago.

"But after years of delay, broken promises and arguments amongst themselves, the private rented sector increasingly resembles the wild west and it's far from clear that this Government can deliver."

The Bill delivers on a 2019 Tory manifesto pledge to scrap Section 21 no-fault evictions and follows calls from campaigners to reform the private rental sector.

It is understood it will be published in full later on Wednesday, with a second reading in several weeks.