With the release of the Levelling Up White Paper last week, it was stated that “the government will announce a plan that for the first time ever, all homes in the Private Rented Sector will have to meet a minimum standard - the Decent Homes Standard. Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions will further be abolished, ending the unfair situation where renters can be kicked out of their homes for no reason. We will consult on introducing a landlords register, and will set out plans for a crackdown on rogue landlords - making sure fines and bans stop repeat offenders leaving renters in terrible conditions.” But what does this mean for your average private landlord? Possibly not as much as it would seem.
After all, tha vast majority of landlords fulfil their duty of care to their tenants by providing compliant housing and abiding by the responsibilities put on them. So, what do these objuectives actually mean? Let's take a look:
Decent Homes Standard This standard currently applies to social housing but it is intended that this will be rolled out across all rented sectors. However, the four main criteria in their current form are fairly broad and only seek to protect tenants from the most severe forms of housing degradation. Property should be free from life-threatening hazards, should be in a “reasonable” state of repair, “reasonably modern” (i.e. a kitchen less than 20 years old and a bathroom less than 30 years old) and able to offer “thermal comfort” to residents. These standards are currently also under review, but due to the financial implications of major upscaling on local authority budgets these requirements are unlikely to change radically, meaning that landlords who are providing comfortable, warm and well-maintained homes to their tenants need not worry about meeting these standards.
Abolition of Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions A primary concern for many landlords is the ability to get their property back should they need it. In reality, most tenancies are ended at the request of the tenant as their needs have changed. However, where a landlord does require their property back the most frequent route to this is to issue a Section 21 notice as this is a mandatory ground – the tenants have to vacate. However, landlords do not evict good tenants for no reason. It may not always be due to the tenants' actions, but there is always a reason. The abolition of Section 21 notices will be accompanied with strengthened Section 8 notices to cover all possible reasons to regain possession. Landlords will still have the means to get their property back; the difference will be that tenants will have to know the reason why. If these changes to such notices are also accompanied with improvements to the eviction process overall, it could be that the course to repossession will be less fraught and drawn-out in comparison to the current system. In all, such reforms may actually work in the landlords' favour.
National Landlords Register Far more information needs to be known about this proposed scheme and this is likely to be expanded upon in the Renters Reform Bill, the white paper for which is due to be released in the spring. Although these reforms are due to also require landlords to sign up to a redress scheme, it is anticipated that landlords using a registered letting agent will fulfil such requirements through the agent’s scheme rather than having to sign up independently. We will be keeping a careful eye on this as it progresses through consultation so that our landlords are kept fully informed. Hopefully the register will identify non-compliant and rogue landlords, making the market more secure for tenants and driving the market to those landlords who abide by the responsibilities expected of them.
It should also be noted that these reforms will not be imposed any time soon and plenty of consultation to proposals are needed before the 2030 missions proposed by Government can be implemented. However, landlords would be wise to take note and to ensure that they act proactively, whether it’s making sure their rental property is up to standard or that they tick the boxes for landlord compliance. The best way to ensure this is to use the management services of a professional letting agent. For more details of our landlord services on offer to those with property in King's Lynn and West Norfolk, call us on 01553 692828 and let Brittons let for you.