A fairer private rented sector, or is it?  Policy Paper Published 16 June 2022

Here's what the Secretary of State has to say on the matter...

The reality today is that far too many renters are living in damp, dangerous, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them.

They’re often frightened to raise a complaint. If they do, there is no guarantee that they won’t be penalised for it, that their rent won’t shoot up as a result, or that they won’t be hit with a Section 21 notice asking them to leave.

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.

Diane Bialek, Managing Director Norman Galloway Sales & Lettings says:

" This is absolutely what should happen. We need to put an end to shoddy, poor and unsafe housing and have robust strategies to deal with rogue landlords who have no intention of playing by the rules. On the flip side, we should have improved support for those landlords who, for whatever reason, have struggled to provide the quality housing that their tenants deserve. In addition, we need a supportive, legal framework to deal with those tenants who destroy their rental home and have no intention of playing by the rules."

In our Levelling Up White Paper - published earlier this year - we set out a clear mission to halve the number of poor-quality homes by 2030.

We committed to levelling up quality across the board in the Private Rented Sector and especially in those parts of the country with the highest proportion of poor, sub-standard housing - Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands, and the North West.

This White Paper – A Fairer Private Rented Sector – sets out how we intend to deliver on this mission, raising the bar on quality and making this New Deal a reality for renters everywhere.

It underlines our commitment, through the Renters Reform Bill, to ensure all private landlords adhere to a legally binding standard on decency.

Diane Bialek says:

" I am in total agreement that we need to professionalise the landlord status further and ensure that we deliver a service to all tenants that is safe and fit for purpose. That will only go so far in improving our stock of rental properties. In order to succeed in Levelling Up our offering to tenants, we need to ensure that landlords have full support and backing to address 'problem tenants'."

The Bill also fulfils our manifesto commitment to replace Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices with a modern tenancy system that gives renters peace of mind so they can confidently settle down and make their house a home.

These changes will be backed by a powerful new Ombudsman so that disputes between tenants and landlords can be settled quickly and cheaply, without going to court.

This white paper also outlines a host of additional reforms to empower tenants so they can make informed choices, raise concerns and challenge unfair rent hikes without fear of repercussion.

Of course, we also want to support the vast majority of responsible landlords who provide quality homes to their tenants. That is one of the reasons why this White Paper sets out our commitment to strengthen the grounds for possession where there is good reason for the landlord to take the property back.

Diane Bialek says:

" It is already costly and timely for landlords to address issues caused by tenants and to take their property back. I cannot imagine any scenario where a landlord would want to evict a good tenant, one who pays market rent, looks after their property and does not cause anti social behaviour. (Unless developing or selling or moving in themselves etc.) We already have stringent laws in place to deal with rogue landlords, do we have adequate to deal with rogue tenants?"

Together, these reforms will help to ease the financial burden on renters, reducing moving costs and emergency repair bills. It will reset the tenant-landlord relationship by making sure that complaints are acted upon and resolved quickly. Most importantly, however, the reforms set out in this White Paper fulfil this Government’s pledge to level up the quality of housing in all parts of the country so that everyone can live somewhere which is decent, safe and secure - a place they’re truly proud to call home.

Diane Bialek says:

" This in theory reads great, I am a tad concerned however by its apparent naivety in approach. It is reminiscent of telling squabbling children to say sorry and be friends - not really a long-term viable strategy in my opinion. Resentment festers, issues are not really addressed, bitterness grows - the result is generally a much bigger squabble with many more people getting involved."

Executive summary

The case for change

Everyone deserves a secure and decent home. Our society should prioritise this just like access to a good school or hospital. The role of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) has changed in recent decades, as the sector has doubled in size, with landlords and tenants becoming increasingly diverse. Today, the sector needs to serve renters looking for flexibility and people who need to move quickly to progress their careers, while providing stability and security for young families and older renters. It must also work for a wide range of landlords, from those with a single property through to those with large businesses.

Most people want to buy their own home one day and we are firmly committed to helping Generation Rent to become Generation Buy. We must reduce financial insecurities that prevent renters progressing on the path to home ownership and, in the meantime, renters should have a positive housing experience.

This White Paper builds on the vision of the Levelling Up White Paper and sets out our plans to fundamentally reform the Private Rented Sector and level up housing quality. Most private landlords take their responsibilities seriously, provide housing of a reasonable standard, and treat their tenants fairly. However, it is wrong that, in the 21st century, a fifth of private tenants in England are spending a third of their income on housing that is non-decent.[footnote 1] Category 1 hazards – those that present the highest risk of serious harm or death – exist in 12% of properties, posing an immediate risk to tenants’ health and safety.[footnote 2]

This means some 1.6 million people are living in dangerously low-quality homes, in a state of disrepair, with cold, damp, and mould, and without functioning bathrooms and kitchens.[footnote 3] Yet private landlords who rent out non-decent properties will receive an estimated £3 billion from the state in housing related welfare.[footnote 4] It is time that this ended for good. No one should pay to live in a non-decent home.

Poor-quality housing is holding people back and preventing neighbourhoods from thriving. Damp, and cold homes can make people ill, and cause respiratory conditions. Children in cold homes are twice as likely to suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis.[footnote 5] Homes that overheat in hot summers similarly affect people’s health. In the PRS alone, this costs the NHS around £340 million a year.[footnote 6] Illness, caused or exacerbated by living in a non-decent home, makes it harder for children to engage and achieve well in school, and adults are less productive at work. There is geographical disparity with the highest rates of non-decent homes in Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and the North West.[footnote 7] Visibly dilapidated houses undermine pride in place and create the conditions for crime, drug-use, and antisocial behaviour.

Too many tenants face a lack of security that hits aspiration and makes life harder for families. Paying rent is likely to be a tenant’s biggest monthly expense and private renters are frequently at the sharpest end of wider affordability pressures. Private renters spend an average of 31% of their household income on rent, more than social renters (27%) or homeowners with mortgages (18%),[footnote 8] reducing the flexibility in their budgets to respond to other rising costs, such as energy.

Frequent home moves are expensive with moving costs of hundreds of pounds.[footnote 9] This makes it harder for renters to save a deposit to buy their own home. Over a fifth (22%) of private renters who moved in 2019 to 2020 did not end their tenancy by choice, including 8% who were asked to leave by their landlord and a further 8% who left because their fixed term ended.[footnote 10] The prospect of being evicted without reason at two months’ notice (so called ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions) can leave tenants feeling anxious and reluctant to challenge poor practice. Families worry about moves that do not align to school terms, and tenants feel they cannot put down roots in their communities or hold down stable employment. Children in insecure housing experience worse educational outcomes, reduced levels of teacher commitment and more disrupted friendship groups, than other children.[footnote 11] In 2019 to 2020, 22% of tenants who wished to complain to their landlord did not do so.[footnote 12] In 2018, Citizens Advice found that if a tenant complained to their local council, they were five times more likely to be evicted using Section 21 than those who stayed silent.[footnote 13]

The existing system does not work for responsible landlords or communities either. We must support landlords to act efficiently to tackle antisocial behaviour or deliberate and persistent non-payment of rent, which can harm communities. Many landlords are trying to do the right thing but simply cannot access the information or support that they need to navigate the legal landscape, or they are frustrated by long delays in the courts. In addition, inadequate enforcement is allowing criminal landlords to thrive, causing misery for tenants, and damaging the businesses and reputations of law-abiding landlords.

Collectively, this adds up to a Private Rented Sector that offers the most expensive, least secure, and lowest quality housing to 4.4 million households, including 1.3 million households with children and 382,000 households over 65.[footnote 14] This is driving unacceptable outcomes and holding back some of the most deprived parts of the country.

Our ambition

We are committed to delivering a fairer, more secure, and higher quality Private Rented Sector. We believe:

  1. All tenants should have access to a good quality, safe and secure home.

  2. All tenants should be able to treat their house as their home and be empowered to challenge poor practice.

  3. All landlords should have information on how to comply with their responsibilities and be able to repossess their properties when necessary.

  4. Landlords and tenants should be supported by a system that enables effective resolution of issues.

  5. Local councils should have strong and effective enforcement tools to crack down on poor practice.

What we have done

We have taken significant action over the past decade to improve private renting. In 2010, 1.4 million rented homes were non-decent, accounting for 37% of the total. This figure has fallen steadily to 1 million homes today (21% of the total).[footnote 15]

To improve safety standards, we have required landlords to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as regular electrical safety checks. We supported the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which means landlords must not let out homes with serious hazards that leave the dwelling unsuitable for occupation.

To help tenants and landlords in resolving disputes, we made it a requirement in 2014 for letting and managing agents to belong to a government-approved redress scheme. We have also given local councils stronger powers to take action against landlords who do not meet expected standards. We have introduced Banning Orders to drive criminal landlords out of the market, civil penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution, and a database of rogue landlords and agents. Over the last five years, we have awarded £6.7 million to over 180 local councils to boost their enforcement work and support innovation.

To reduce financial barriers to private renting, we have capped most tenancy deposits at five weeks’ rent and prevented landlords and agents from charging undue or excess letting fees. Between 2010-11 and 2020-21 the proportion of household income (including housing benefit) spent on rent by private renters reduced from 35% to 31%.[footnote 16]

We have taken additional steps to protect private tenants when exceptional circumstances required. During the Coronavirus pandemic our emergency measures helped tenants to remain in their homes by banning bailiff evictions, extending notice periods, and providing unprecedented financial aid. These measures worked. There was a reduction of over 40% in households owed a homelessness duty following the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) in 2020 to 2021 compared with 2019 to 2020,[footnote 17] and repossessions by county court bailiffs between January and March 2022 were down 55% compared to the same quarter in 2019.[footnote 18]

Our 12-point plan of action

While the Government’s action over recent years has driven improvements, we know there is more to be done. We are committed to robust and comprehensive changes to create a Private Rented Sector that meets the needs of the diverse tenants and landlords who live and work within it. We have a 12-point plan of action:

  1. We will deliver on our levelling up housing mission to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030 and require privately rented homes to meet the Decent Homes Standard for the first time. This will give renters safer, better value homes and remove the blight of poor-quality homes in local communities.

  2. We will accelerate quality improvements in the areas that need it most. We will run pilot schemes with a selection of local councils to explore different ways of enforcing standards and work with landlords to speed up adoption of the Decent Homes Standard.

  3. We will deliver our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and deliver a simpler, more secure tenancy structure. A tenancy will only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession, empowering tenants to challenge poor practice and reducing costs associated with unexpected moves.

  4. We will reform grounds for possession to make sure that landlords have effective means to gain possession of their properties when necessary. We will expedite landlords’ ability to evict those who disrupt neighbourhoods through antisocial behaviour and introduce new grounds for persistent arrears and sale of the property.

  5. We will only allow increases to rent once per year, end the use of rent review clauses, and improve tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases through the First Tier Tribunal to support people to manage their costs and to remain in their homes.

  6. We will strengthen tenants’ ability to hold their landlord to account and introduce a new single Ombudsman that all private landlords must join. This will provide fair, impartial, and binding resolution to many issues and be quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial than the court system. Alongside this, we will consider how we can bolster and expand existing rent repayment orders and enable tenants to be repaid rent for non-decent homes.

  7. We will work with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to target the areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings. We will also strengthen mediation and alternative dispute resolution to enable landlords and tenants to work together to reduce the risk of issues escalating.

  8. We will introduce a new Property Portal to make sure that tenants, landlords and local councils have the information they need. The portal will provide a single ‘front door’ for landlords to understand their responsibilities, tenants will be able to access information about their landlord’s compliance, and local councils will have access to better data to crack down on criminal landlords. Subject to consultation with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), we also intend to incorporate some of the functionality of the Database of Rogue Landlords, mandating the entry of all eligible landlord offences and making them publicly visible.

  9. We will strengthen local councils’ enforcement powers and ability to crack down on criminal landlords by seeking to increase investigative powers and strengthening the fine regime for serious offences. We are also exploring a requirement for local councils to report on their housing enforcement activity and want to recognise those local councils that are doing a good job.

  10. We will legislate to make it illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits and explore if similar action is needed for other vulnerable groups, such as prison leavers. We will improve support to landlords who let to people on benefits, which will reduce barriers for those on the lowest incomes.

  11. We will give tenants the right to request a pet in their property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. We will also amend the Tenant Fees Act 2019 so that landlords can request that their tenants buy pet insurance.

  12. We will work with industry experts to monitor the development of innovative market-led solutions to passport deposits. This will help tenants who struggle to raise a second deposit to move around the PRS more easily and support tenants to save for ownership.

We know action is needed now and the Renters Reform Bill will bring forward legislation in this Parliamentary session to deliver on our wide-reaching commitments. Collectively, this 12-point plan will create a Private Rented Sector that is fit for the 21st century. It will give good landlords the confidence and support they need to provide decent and secure homes. It will end the geographical disparities whereby renters in deprived areas are most likely to have to put up with terrible conditions that harm their health.

This 12-point plan will provide further support for tenants on their path to home ownership, in addition to government-backed schemes such as the new First Homes programme, the new Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme, Shared Ownership scheme and mortgage guarantee scheme. These schemes have already helped over 774,000 households to purchase a home. We are going further to support home ownership by examining reform of the mortgage market to boost access to finance for first time buyers, extend the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants, delivering on a long-standing commitment made by several governments, and removing home ownership disincentives in the welfare system. We will accelerate our progress on housing supply by working with communities to build the right homes in the right places across England.

We continue to take on board recommendations from the recent National Audit Office review and Public Accounts Committee report[footnote 19] to inform our ambitious and comprehensive reforms. We are also very grateful to the wide range of stakeholders, tenants, agents, and landlords who have engaged with us, notably through a series of roundtables chaired by Eddie Hughes, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing. A summary of these discussions can be found annexed to this White Paper and we look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to deliver these necessary reforms.

Diane Bialek says:

" I am always keen to see improvements in the quality of homes provided by the Private Rented Sector (PRS). We all know at least one landlord who is completely letting the side down. That being said, the majority of private landlords provide good quality homes and deliver a much needed service. It is not a job for the feint hearted and not something that can be done without a great deal of knowledge, time and money- if you do it properly, or have an agent. The policy paper goes some way to alleviating landlord concerns, specifically, that they will be even worse off than now when dealing with issues with tenants. I would like to reserve further judgement until I see how this plays out in practice." 

Read the full policy paper here:

Policy paper A fairer private rented sector

photo credit - www.gov

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