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The Renters Reform Bill passed its third and final Parliamentary debate this week, as the much-contested proposal underwent substantial amendments since it was last reviewed at the end of November.

Many of the almost 200 amendments stemmed from intense cross-party committee scrutiny, with a crucial outcome being that the Decent Homes Standard would be applied to the sector for the first time and there would be an overhaul of Rent Repayment Orders.

Other crucial changes were put forward, including:

Tory Amendments:

  • A delay on the abolition of Section 21

This was a key Conservative pledge and remains a highly debated subject amongst renter and landlord groups, as well as political parties. So far, this has been delayed because of the need to reform the legal system to better facilitate this new process. Today’s reading failed to clarify a timeframe or outline exactly how the new court proceedings process will work.

  • Longer tenant notice periods

This amendment aims to give landlords more stability and instil more confidence in the Bill. The amendment seeks tenants to be required to give four months’ notice to their landlord.

Labour amendments:

Giving the pushback the original Renters Reform Bill got from renter groups, Labour put forward amendments which aimed to give more security to renters, including:

  • A ban on rent bidding and mandatory rental price advertising

This is to ensure more transparency within the rental sector. This would avoid the possibility of prospective tenants bidding against each other outpricing tenants, which was a major cause for concern particularly at a time where rental yields are increasing and demand for rental properties far exceeds supply of rental properties.

  • Guarantor ban

A ban on landlords requiring a guarantor from prospective tenants would make it easier for tenants to find a home and help reduce discrimination.

Green Party amendments

  • Minimum EPC rating

In line with government energy efficiency targets, it is suggested that mandatory EPC targets for new homes be extended to rental properties, requiring landlords to ensure their properties are EPC rated C at the minimum.

Reactions to the Reform Bill Amendments

The National Residential Landlords Association maintained that the amendments to the Bill retained a healthy balance of protection for both tenant and landlord rights. Chief Executive, Ben Beadle, said: “This Bill delivers a fair deal for tenants and responsible landlords. In the interests of certainty for the sector it is now time to ensure the Bill passes through Parliament.

In contrast, groups campaigning for greater tenant rights believe that these amendments act to water down the promised reforms, pledged by the Tory party in 2019. Renters Reform Coalition – which represents 20 organisations and charities representing renters – said new amendments catered to “vested interests” and voiced concerns that Section 21 would not be removed before the next election as promised.

SevenLiving CEO, Charlotte Thursfield says:

“These amendments are a step in the right direction for the Reform Bill. It addresses many primary concerns for landlords, however, there is still some clarity to be had regarding the judiciary changes needed to implement the removal of Section 21 – a key concern for both tenants and landlords.
Whilst a delay in abolishing Section 21 notices may come as a disappointment for renters, ultimately this is to ensure the court system is equipped to protect their interests – and those of landlords – in the long run. Without proper procedures put in place, these new policies will fail and rights of either party cannot successfully be protected.”

Since the last Renter’s Reform update, landlord sentiment has come along way. Recent Data from Goodlord’s latest State of the Lettings Industry report suggests that landlords are becoming less opposed to the removal of Section 21 since it was announced that major judicial reforms and changes to court proceedings were vital before Section 21 is removed. It revealed that support for keeping Section 21 fell from 71% in 2022 to 62% by the end of 2023, as landlords and landlord groups recognised the government’s aim to maintain as many landlord rights as possible whilst ensure a fairer system for tenants.

Advice for Landlords

We must stress that the Reform Bill still needs to pass through the House of Lords before it becomes law.

Our team of letting agents are landlords themselves, so if you’re looking for clarity or advice on the new amendments to the Renters Reform Bill and its impact on the private rental sector, please do not hesitate to get in touch and one of our team will be happy to help.

Alternatively, our flexible, online landlord services are catered to your individual requirements – whether you’re a hands-on landlord or you prefer to take a step back. We make lettings simple, and you can find out more about our landlord services here.