Renters bill brings changes to residential lettings market

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02 Jun 2023

Renters bill brings changes to residential lettings market – Kellie Jones comments in Property Week

Litigation Partner, Kellie Jones provides commentary on an in-depth analysis piece on the Renters Reform Bill, which has sparked a fresh debate over how the balance between landlord and tenant should be struck.

The bill promises to strengthen the rights of private renters and give them a better deal with the introduction of a new private rented sector ombudsman, the implementation of the Decent Homes Standard for private renters and the ability to appeal what are deemed excessive above-market rent increases.

The reformed requirements for possession will be included in an expanded version of the current Section 8 grounds, which outline a list of reasons whereby landlords can legitimately take control of their property. The list includes standard stipulations such as needing vacant possession if a landlord was looking to sell or a superior lease ending.

Other stipulations include criminal behaviour, which allows for immediate possession, and redevelopment, where if the landlord wishes to redevelop the property they have to demonstrate that the works cannot be done with the tenant living there.

“It is possible that the new grounds for possession may actually make obtaining possession easier in certain circumstances,” says Kellie Jones, partner at Boodle Hatfield.

“The proposal is to extend the grounds on which a landlord can take back their properties to include where either they or a family member wish to move into the property, where the landlord is going to sell the property or to redevelop if it will not be possible to do so with a tenant in the property. This will certainly help a landlord if their circumstances change, for example, and they want to sell the property.”

Other grounds, it could be argued, are less clear. For example, a landlord can evict a tenant if the tenant has caused “the condition of the furniture to deteriorate”, with two weeks’ notice given. Questions remain over whether regular use, which would cause wear and tear, would qualify as grounds for eviction under the proposed laws.

Landlords will also have the mandatory power to evict a tenant if they require possession to house someone who will be employed by them as an agricultural worker.

In practice, it may mean that a judge will consider trivial grounds for eviction as inadequate proof to grant a possession order. It may, however, also slow down the process for all involved.

“The biggest question will be whether the courts can cope,” Jones says. “The advantage of the Section 21 procedure is that it enabled the courts to deal with possession claims on paper, leading to a quicker and more cost-efficient option for landlords at the end of a fixed term.”

If tenants wish to challenge their landlords and do not voluntarily vacate, landlords will need to provide evidence to a court to determine their claim.

“The risk is that possession claims take longer and landlords still have no certainty on when they will be able to take possession of their properties, even if they do meet the statutory grounds,” Jones adds. “By abolishing Section 21 but increasing the grounds for possession, the bill may inadvertently cause more legal headaches for landlords.”

The full article was first published in the Property Week on 1st June 2023.