Renters (Reform) Bill - discussion (analysis only please, no ranting)

The Renters (Reform) Bill has been published.
This Topic is intended for landlords who want to have a genuine discussion about the effects of the Bill and which parts we might want to ask our own MPs to challenge with amendments.
Please, please, please - don’t use this Topic for rants and tirades and general moans. I’m proposing it as a place for sensible discussion about what landlords might do next. And I don’t mean selling. I mean trying to get the Bill amended.

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If the court process was 10 times quicker for landlords and HB was paid direct to Landlord ,no ifs and buts , landlords would probably stay the course . How to do it ? Not possible . The Gov, L A and shelter will reap the whirlwind within 3 years


I don’t disagree with your comment that there will be a whirlwind within 3 years if the Bill passes as drafted but what amendments do you think would help? Specific amendments to the Bill? There isn’t a lot of time for preparing draft amendments and sending them to our various MPs.

Exclusion of student lettings from removal of fixed term tenancies.

I understand that Gove doesn’t want to be seen to be creating a two tier system, whereby students have less rights than other tenants. But this ignores how the student market works and is the greater of two evils for Gove to choose from. This is because student properties will gradually be removed from the market without landlord choice, due to the below:

  1. If students can leave with 2 months notice mid academic year (say there is a fall out in the group, or one drops out so others have to leave or cover their rent) then the landlord will have to relet mid year. In my location this will mean professional sharers being the only suitable tenants available at this time of the year. The property is then ‘out of cycle’ for the academic year, and because the new tenants can’t be tied to a fixed term, I will not be able to get it back into the academic cycle.

  2. The same result occurs if the student group decide to stay on for another few months after uni finishes (say they have local jobs and simply prefer living with their friends). The property is then out of the academic cycle and will be very unlikely to return.

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Craig75 - Yes, all you say is correct but there might be a suitable amendment which could be drafted, which the government might accept.

I am a director of a company which owns various properties including a university city centre commercial property with 3 self-contained flats above. These are almost always let to post-graduate students and we don’t allow multiple occupation. I think we might suffer some voids because of students departing at inconvenient times, but I don’t think it will be a significant problem.

But I agree the problem could be acute for lettings to groups of students in registered HMO properties - and I think that is what you are saying.

Therefore, is it worth drafting an amendment which would have the effect of allowing student HMO lettings to continue to be for fixed term tenancies?

The government might accept this if it can be persuaded that the alternative will be a significant decline in the availability of HMOs for students. Perhaps the universities might also be persuaded to lobby for this? If a suitable amendment could be drafted it could be sent to all the Universities - although some time would be needed to research the correct addressee at each university.

The net effect on me is that I will only ever be looking for itinerant people and not families. It seems the only guaranteed way out now avoiding lots of time and court costs is to sell the house. That will be my final option but I hope that by renting to people like students, young professionals, etc I won’t have anyone looking for a long term home. And in fact where I live in London there are many people in this situation so my property is fulfilling a genuine market need, actually there are far more of these people now because of government policy (in particular allowing foreign students to stay on post-graduation). The irony is that the flat I have recently rented out was built as a council flat for a family but now due to government policy I would never rent it to a family and only want to rent to people who are going to move of their own accord in 2-3 years. Terrible policy but what can we do except go with the flow.

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Yes you are right, I’m talking about HMOs currently on 12 months joint tenancy.

I’ve no idea how to draft an amendment, I assumed this is something the MP would do if convinced to take up the case? Being Labour MPs in my area I can’t see me convincing any of them to do so, therefore I’m unsure what action I should take next?

My understanding is that Gove has been lobbied heavily on the student matter (the chairman of the NRLA is a student landlord and he has met with Gove to discuss his concerns).

Gove spokesperson responded essentially by saying that students suffer some of the worst property conditions (valid) and he won’t create a two tier system. In his view, the likelihood of students wanting to leave mid year or stay on afterwards is low. Further, he said the situation isn’t straightforward because there are mixed use properties (student and non-students).

I suspect what he didn’t/couldn’t say is
a) they can’t be exposed to attack by labour on landlords with an election coming next year, it’s one of Labour’s key attacks. So although we are correct with our points, this is politics.

b) long term they want HMOs for students to decline anyway. Students occupy generally large homes that are suitable for families. And they don’t pay council tax. They want students to move into PBSAs, and free up the housing stock for families who will also pay council tax.

The points in (b) are valid, but this would need to be a 10-15 year plan. There is a huge shortage of student accommodation (obviously crippled by Article 4 which prevents any property not already a HMO from becoming one), and the build rate of PBSAs is tiny yet student numbers are growing.

The short to medium term impact is going to be serious for student property shortage. Gove knows this, but I think point (a) prevails. Priority is the election in 12 months, we’ll worry about the mess created as a result if we are in power (or blame Labour from opposition if it’s all a mess). Politics over sound policies.

Sorry I know you said not to rant, but I’m explaining why I feel hopeless, and not sure what I could actually do?

Graham, thanks for your comment but I really intended this particular thread to be restricted to suggestions for amendments to the Bill, which we can submit to our MPs - or perhaps to members of the Upper House - in the hope that we can persuade them to introduce them when the Bill is debated. I appreciate your point of view but you are not actually suggesting any amendments.

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If you think you will have any influence over this bill you are wasting your time.


Graham - your comment is nonsense. I’ve been involved with this sort of thing for over 50 years. A great many amendments to Bills are made by MPs and members of the Upper House who are informed and sometimes advised by knowledgeable constituents. Often they take notice of representations from pressure groups but the good ones will also listen to the representations of individuals. A defeatist attitude gets us nowhere (but I admit I encounter so much defeatism nowadays that I do sometimes feel close to despair).

Part of the problem is people vent their feelings by having a quick rant on an internet forum and won’t buckle down to the serious work of reading, analysing, and then preparing suggested amendments to draft legislation - and the result of that is an undue weighting to the representations of organisations who can afford to employ specialists to do this work.


Thanks for your efforts.

You sound experienced and I’m keen to know your suggestion please? Should I just write to my local MP (which is labour) or a particular Tory MP who may be more likely to take up the cause? Not sure who this would be though

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The impact on the student market has already been mentioned and is significant, but the option for tenants to give notice at the start of the tenancy will also affect any landlords ability to plan and could impact their income due to increased voids.

Its interesting that the Bill mentions the abolition of ASTs wheras I understand that the white paper was proposing to retain them but just abolish s21.

Ive only just downloaded the PDF so I will have to work through the 89 pages before adding further comments.

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Craig75 - the techniques for influencing legislation can vary.

If a representative body or lobbyist seems to be having some success it’s often best to leave it to them and not risk muddying the waters. In this case I don’t have any confidence in any of the bodies or people who claim to represent the PRS.

If one is making private representations there are two routes.

The first route is via MPs and this will count as a constituency matter which means only your own MP can take your suggestions forward except for the rare cases where an MP makes it known that they are interested in hearing about a particular matter from people other than their own constituents. When going through my own MP I always try and speak to the constituency office manager first to sound out the situation and try to prepare the ground for a letter - MPs get huge volumes of correspondence and it’s hard for their office to sift the wheat from the chaff. But it can be done - and on this matter (about which I have been corresponding for 2 years) I get direct replies usually within 3 weeks.

The other route is via members of the House of Lords. You have to find out if there is a member who is interested in the particular matter and likely to take notice of correspondence. I have never actually used this route myself. The industry in which I used to work did have contacts with members of the Upper House but I never have myself so I can’t say anything more useful than that.

When dealing with new legislation the absolutely essential, indispensable thing, which I have been banging on about here, is to suggest amendments. This is how I deal with this sort of thing:-

  1. Briefly summarise the issue
  2. State the relevant wording of the existing statute if any (in this case we are mostly concerned with the Housing Act 1988) highlighting any words which are particularly important
  3. State the wording of the Bill which makes amendments or introduces new law which one is opposed to - and again highlight the most relevant words
  4. Explain succinctly what harm will result if the Bill is enacted as drafted
  5. (This is the most difficult part for most people) Suggest alternative words which will mitigate the harm. If you feel you can’t do that because the way legislation is worded is so difficult for most people to understand) say in plain English how the Bill needs to be amended

I have learned that MPs pay very little attention to rants or moans or general complaints. The lazy ones ignore them and the conscientious ones devote their time to matters where they think they can do something - so if you make it easy for them you stand a better chance.

By the way, so far as the Renters (Reform) Bill is concerned the key point to try and get across is that the PRS is shrinking and more landlords will sell if the worst elements of the Bill are enacted. I believe that MPs are starting to become aware that there are (a) some members of the population who for whatever reason cannot or do not want to become owner occupiers, and (b) many landlords are already selling, so there is a growing shortfall in supply. Clearly the student HMO sector is very relevant.

I accept that there are some MPs (and yours may be one of them) who think landlords are Satan incarnate, and the PRS should die, and the Rent Acts (if they have heard of them) should never have been abolished… but there’s always a chance that your MP might not take that view and will look at your suggestions.

Sorry this is so long. I can’t see how to abbreviate it.

David122 - I am struggling to find references in the Bill to the criteria which the Tribunal will use to assess the merits of tenant’s applications to reduce passing rents under s6(2)(A1) or objections to proposed increased rents under s6(2)(A3).

The White paper stated on p.3 that the government will ‘empower tenants so they can … challenge unfair rent hikes without fear of repercussion’.

On.p7, para. 5 says ‘We will … improve tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases through the First Tier Tribunal to support people to manage their costs and to remain in their homes.

On p.31, para 3.1 it stated: ‘Removing Section 21 will level the playing field between landlord and tenant, empowering tenants to challenge poor practice and unjustified rent increases’

The words ‘unfair’ and ‘excessive’ and ‘unjustified’ are not in the Bill and so far I haven’t found anything which suggests the current criteria for Tribunal determinations will be altered. I’ll be interested to know what you think.

I made representations on this point to the Select Committee and these were referenced in a footnote to their report so I’m slightly hopeful that the implied rent controls which those words might have presaged will not in fact happen under this government.

I think the bill should expand on some of the issues that they plan in either secondary legislation or another Act; in particular ASB.

The government are saying ASB is adequately dealt with or that it will be of the bar is slightly lowered and it is a discretionary ground unless sever whatever that means. The onus of proof is on the LL and is too rough. I suggest a redefinition that if the perpetrator is found to have caused a statutory nuisance due to either a LA or private suit that should be a mandatory ground.

Thanks @Alexander26. I’m gradually working through the Bill and will try and remember to look at the ASB mandatory ground issue, but I’m tied up next week so it will be a while. A search for “anti-social” reveals only 2 references in the Bill, in s.2 and Schedule 1 so there is definitely scope for an amendment to be proposed. Can you have a further look at this?

I agree that the Bill should be more explicit about matters to be dealt with by statutory instrument or regulations otherwise made by the Secretary of State. There are references to new powers to make regulations in sections 5 (two), 9, 10, 11, 22, 56, 60, 65 (but this is a general saving clause), 67 & 68 (but these are related to dates of commencement and application), Schedule 2 (several), and Schedule 4. There may be others which I have missed. But all UK legislation is drafted like this nowadays. Acts provide a framework and a lot of the actual rules are made by statutory instrument or sometimes it would seem almost by diktat from the relevant Secretary of State. These rules very rarely receive any parliamentary scrutiny. During the lockdown era the Coronavirus Act enabled numerous rules to be made by the relevant minister/s and none of these received any genuine scrutiny. In effect the government issued orders and everyone had to follow them. What’s more there are no indications that the 2020 Act will ever be repealed. It is a sad fact of life that this is how we are governed nowadays and we just have to make the best of it by trying to influence primary legislation at the Bill stage which is what this thread is all about.

I agree with all that you say

ASB is very hard to prove and is extremely rarely used. Mandatory is “severe” and even discretionary requires criminality. The legislators make no distinction between different situations treating all housing as of two types; social or private.

Statutory nuisance is not easy to prove but there is a long and established record covering noise smells and mess.

Currently S21 is the lever to stop nuisance and this will go with no substitute. Social LLs have at least some power to deal with ASB although that is pretty ineffective too in practice.

The courts are relatively used to dealing with nuisance. If people are kept awake at night it can drive them mad and indeed this is covered in planning guidance quite extensively.
It seems only fair that if a nuisance continues to the level that there has to be a court determination then that is pretty bad. I doubt the legislators would agree to a first offence being mandatory but might at a second offence.

I have no experience through the courts at least not for many years and I think it has changed. When I have to deal with a nuisance I am able to do so gently as there is an understanding at the end that I am in control of my property. Alas!

For me biggest hit is removal of S21. There will be tenants I need to evict based on, for example, undeclared guests/children who regularly stays. Or nuisance to neighbours which is subjective. Properties I have are those which I stay previously and I know my neighbours and I try to do my best to make sure I get good tenants but I do nit get it right always. Yes, we can put a clause on the agreement for number of occupants and guests but proving such things are costly and how do I do it with out risking harassment or stalking! Going back to topic, what kind of help I will be getting from government instead of S21 for things like above.

@C116 What kind of help from the government? None.

@Graham Obviously I have been thinking a lot about this since I started the thread.

In the past when I have been involved in making representations about forthcoming legislation I have felt it was not a complete waste of time.

Last night I couldn’t sleep. I was kept awake by the thought that the loss of s21 is so fundamental that everything else pales into insignificance. Others have said this before and perhaps I should have paid more attention. As I have said many times my family have been involved in the PRS for 60 years. I remember what it was like before the 1988 Act. It was the introduction of ASTs and s21 which transformed the PRS and made it a viable business.

I had hoped that by putting pressure on the government to make amendments to the Bill landlords in the PRS might survive.

Right now, for the reasons given by @C116 I feel that if we can’t keep s21 there is little point in worrying about anything else and the only sensible course of action is to serve now, gain possession before the legislation passes, pay the Capital Gains Tax, and find something else to do with the residual capital. Can we keep s21? No, I don’t think we can.

Comments please (@Graham - please feel free to say “I told you so”).

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Im also planning to sell up and the RR bill is a contributory factor, but its only part of the relentless attack on the sector that will culminate with an increase in the rate of CGT next year when there is a change of Govt. It will eventually go full circle when a future Govt realises how important the PRS is to Britain, but thats for a future generation to benefit from.

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