The long-promised renters’ (reform) bill will be published later today almost three-and-a-half years after the government was elected on a manifesto promising to end “no-fault” evictions.
Among the new proposals, no-fault, or Section 21, evictions which currently allow landlords to take back possession from tenants without giving a reason will be scrapped, with housing secretary Michael Gove saying a new ombudsman will be set up to oversee dispute resolutions.
As well as ending no-fault evictions, the bill will seek to give people the legal right to request having a pet in their home. Landlords will legally have to consider these requests, and will not be able to unreasonably refuse.
The government has said that landlords will also be able to more easily evict anti-social tenants, with reduced notice periods for “irresponsible” renters.
Commenting on the new bill, transport minister Richard Holden told Sky News the legislation being unveiled today will stop tenants “causing real problems” with antisocial behaviour, while also giving greater protections to renters.
“It’s not about the landlords — it’s about the other tenants who might live in the same block or in the same street as somebody else”, he said, adding: “I think we’re going to strike the right balance here between ensuring that renters can have somewhere safe and secure to live and have a normal life there, and also ensure that some rogue tenants don’t disrupt the entire neighbourhood for people as well”.
The government expects the plans will impact 11 million tenants and two million landlords in England.
Speaking to Sky News, shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook said his party will “back the builders not the blockers”, adding that Labour would “unashamedly” increase rates of housebuilding.
He said a Labour government would reform the planning system entirely, meaning it would do away with the government’s “arbitrary” and now optional target of 300,000 new homes per year in favour of a system that would be based on local requirements.
“We have to have a planning system that meets objectively assessed housing need. That’s what the government has rowed away from,” he said.
He added that ministers have given councils “every excuse in the book” to not meet their local targets and that Labour would build “in the region” of 300,000 new homes per year.
“We want to see a marked increase in affordable housing, particularly genuinely affordable social rented homes, we want to see a better regulated private renting sector, and we want to see a better offer for those who aspire to home ownership”, he said.
Some campaigners have described the bill as a “once-in-a-generation” announcement — but there are also warnings that some landlords will still find ways to get around the new proposals.
Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: “Abolishing [no-fault evictions] will take away much of the stress of renting and improve communication and trust between tenants and landlords”.
Spokeswoman for the London Renters Union Siobhan Donnachie called the bill “long overdue” and said “inflation-busting rent” will mean renters will still feel insecure.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, suggested that the Bill lacks detail, saying: “Responsible landlords need to be confident that when Section 21 ends, where they have a legitimate reason, they will be able to repossess their properties as quickly as possible.
“Without this assurance, the Bill will only exacerbate the rental housing supply crisis many tenants now face”.
Housing secretary Michael Gove said: “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.
“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.”
Lisa Nandy, the shadow housing secretary, said Labour would go further, with plans to introduce “a four-month notice period for landlords, a national register of landlords, and a host of new rights for tenants – including the right to make alterations to your home, to request speedy repairs, and to have pets”.