Renters Reform: First evidence sessions as Bill hits committee stage
Today marks the end of week one in a series of evidence sessions that will be key to the future of the Government's Renters (Reform) Bill. Experts from across the private rented sector and beyond have addressed a cross party group of MPs on everything from pets to the possession process, each wanting to put their stamp on the final legislation. Samuel Leeson from the public affairs team looks at the key takeaways for landlords.
It's been a busy week in Westminster with the first evidence sessions on the Government's controversial Renters (Reform) Bill now underway.
Topics included the introduction of a Decent Homes Standard for the private rented sector (PRS), changes to the anti-social behaviour ground for possession and the proposed housing ombudsman, as well as court reform and the current supply crisis crippling the sector.
Landlord representatives including the NRLA were among the first stakeholders to address the committee in Portcullis House, alongside legal experts, pressure groups and tenant representatives.
A series of amendments proposed by the Government and MPs was also made public, including deatils on how the proposed new ground for student landlords could work. For detailed information about these proposed amendments you can read a blog by NRLA Head of Policy James Wood here.
Giving evidence NRLA chief executive, Ben Beadle explained reform of the private rented sector will be meaningless without significant improvements to the courts, a view shared by a plethora of legal exerts who reiterated the association's concerns about the capacity of the justice system to handle the inevitable increase in workload when Section 21 is gone.
Richard Miller, Head of Justice at The Law Society, said the Bill will likely lead to a 'significant increase in the number of contested hearings' expressing 'substantial concern about the capacity of the system to handle the workload that will come with this change'.
The NRLA’s calls were also supported by Judicaelle Hammond, Director of Policy and Advice at Country Land and Business Association, who emphasised the urgent need to improve the resourcing and capacity of the courts.
On other important issues, such as the Bill’s impact on the supply of rented accommodation in the PRS, the committee sought expert opinions from housing specialists and academics.
Leading PRS housing expert, Dr Julie Rugg said the abolition of Section 21 will undoubtedly increase landlords’ perception that there is a 'risk in the market' and will cause them to think hard about their future and whether they wish to continue, or leave the sector for good.
Tenant groups including Generation Rent and the Renters Reform Coalition also gave evidence, arguing that proposed grounds allowing landlords to repossess where they want to sell or move into the property themsleves would be 'section 21 by the backdoor'.
Elsewhere, the issue of pets was raised, with Jen Berezai of animal charity AdvoCats arguing that, contrary to popualar opinion, research shows a large number of landlords would be willing to consider pets, provided they were able to protect their own interests.
What happens next?
With the committee set to continue to scrutinise the Bill next week, the NRLA will continue to share updates on our news site and social media channels
If you would like to read the transcripts from all the evidence sessions this week, please click here.
And for more information on how the Renters (Reform) Bill will become law, please click here.