Industry News James Wood 17/05/2024

Renters (Reform) Bill has its first reading in the Lords

The Renters (Reform) Bill took another step closer to completion this week as members of the House of Lords got their first chance to debate the legislation.

No amendments are put forward at second reading, but debate did give indications of the type of changes that are likely to be put forward by Peers at committee stage.

Of particular note were the opening remarks from Baroness Swinburne, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for housing and Communities. They gave some further detail on the Government’s plans post royal assent, as well as further amendments to the Bill.

Difficulties with a quick implementation

While many have suggested the Bill should immediately move to banning section 21, Baroness Swinburne noted that much would still need to be done after royal assent. This includes:

· The creation of a ‘raft’ of secondary legislation to support the bill. This would include things such as the new written tenancy agreement requirements and prescribed forms for rent increases and possession notices.

· The publication of comprehensive guidance for the sector on how to comply with the new responsibilities in the Bill.

· Updates to the courts systems and rules to ensure they are prepared for the changes.

The Baroness also added that the Government has made an additional £11 million in funding available for the design of the new digital possession service and is looking to improve recruitment and retention of bailiffs, as well as targeting areas for prioritisation of certain possession claims like serious anti-social behaviour.

Likely Government amendments

Before the Bill completed its passage through parliament a new amendment was added that meant tenants would not be able to end the tenancy in the first six months of occupation.

It was suggested at the time that the Government will look to add potential exemptions to this where domestic abuse has occurred, the property is unsafe, or the tenant has died, and she confirmed that the Government is still exploring this option. Given this, it is very likely that these exemptions will appear as amendments in the remaining stages of the Bill's passage through the Lords.

Labour’s position

Labour peer Baroness Taylor said the party felt the bill had been ‘watered down’ to appease backbenchers in the Conservative Party, but said it did not intend to hold up the passage of the Bill as there were many elements it does support, and that will improve the position of tenants.

It is likely that Labour Party will put forward amendments however. A number of them are likely to be similar to the ones tabled in the Commons such as:

· Increasing notice periods for some possession grounds;

· Making other grounds discretionary; and

· Changing when a rent increase can apply from.

What happens next?

The next stage will be committee stage where members of the Lords can suggest amendments to the Bill. While we may see a number of proposed amendments, as we did in the Commons, we anticipate that the Bill will pass through the Lords with relatively little change -unless the Government itself introduces further amendments.

Once the Bill has passed through the Lords and received Royal Assent, it will be up to the Secretary of State to set a date on which the new rules will apply to new tenancies.

What is the NRLA doing?

The NRLA will continue to keep our members up to date on the passage of the Bill and its details.

If you’d like further information or to ask questions about the Bill, we are running a webinar next Friday, which will update you as to where the Bill is at and, crucially, what happens next. The webinar will be hosted by our Chief Executive Ben Beadle and you can register to join, for free, here

James Wood

James Wood Head of Policy

James Wood, LLB, is the NRLA’s Head of Policy. James has provided legally sound advice to thousands of landlords for more than six years, along with producing the organisation’s guides and documents and training the organisation’s highly rated advice service.

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