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Is Rental Reform just a diversion for Boris? ask suppliers

Thank goodness the uncertainty is over - but is it all too skewed towards tenants?

That’s the worry of suppliers as Daniel Evans, chair of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks, makes clear in his contribution to Landlord Today’s White Paper special. 

“The cynic’s point of view would suggest that this is another perfect piece of distraction – a big, meaty policy paper on a big, meaty issue. A way of distracting from government issues, and some would argue failures, elsewhere, from the Rwanda deportation debacle to the PM’s ethics adviser resigning for the second time in a few years.


“Of course, the White Paper is only going to inform the eventual Bill that makes it to Parliament, and there is likely to be strong opposition to some of the measures included between now and then. Its journey through Parliament is also likely to be slow and complex, mirroring the journey taken by the Tenant Fees Act – until now the biggest piece of rental legislation to pass into law for many years and a seismic change to the industry.

“This rental reform is even more wide-ranging and will have an even bigger impact on the market. It’s interesting how the government has framed it as ‘A fairer private rented sector’. And it’s noticeably more tenant-friendly than some had been expecting.

“Landlords had held out hope that some of the measures would be watered down or scrapped completely as Boris Johnson sought not to alienate traditional Conservative voters. But it seems the government is now chasing the tenant vote and banking on the fact that most landlords will still vote Tory.

“It’s a risky strategy, particularly from a PM who recently had 148 of his own MPs state they had no confidence in his leadership.

So, what does the White Paper actually propose? 

“There are some aspects of it that the whole industry can get behind, such as extending the Decent Homes Standard to the PRS and creating a Private Renters’ Ombudsman to allow disputes between private tenants and landlords to be settled quickly, at low cost, and without going to court.

“What’s more, there will be a new property portal that will ‘provide a single front door to help landlords to understand, and comply with, their responsibilities as well as giving councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue operators’ – which seems like a fairly sound idea in principle.

“The reforms to Section 21 evictions have also been baked in for some time, and many landlords have got used to the idea of a Section 21-free world, even if they don’t like that idea very much.

“But there are other aspects of the White Paper which really seem to tip the power back to tenants in a way that hasn’t been the case since the Housing Act 1988 introduced ASTs.

“Of course, every reasonable person wants tenants to have strong rights and the ability to live unbothered in good, clean, safe rental accommodation.

"However, there is a strong argument that by trying to rebalance things in favour of tenants, the government is going too far the other way.

“The government wants to make it easier for tenants to have pets, ‘a right which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse’. But how this will work in reality is less clear-cut. 

“Previous attempts to make this a right or make it harder for landlords to refuse have not gone well. There are legitimate landlord concerns regarding noise, hygiene, insurance, damage, etc, that means the majority don’t allow furry friends inside their rental home.

“The government also wants all tenants to be moved onto a single system of periodic tenancies, which it says will mean they can leave poor-quality housing without remaining liable for the rent or move more easily when their circumstances change.

"Meanwhile, a tenancy will only end if a tenant ends it or a landlord has a valid reason, defined in law.

“The government insists that ‘responsible landlords’ will be able to gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants ‘and can sell their properties when they need to’, but there will be concerns and anxiety among landlords that this will be much more difficult even in cases where it is justified.

“Rental reform has to work for all parties in the rental process – tenants, landlords and agents – otherwise more division and animosity will be caused.

“In reality, such widespread rental reform probably wasn’t needed. Most landlords and tenants get on well and renters are happy with the accommodation they live in, despite the media perception stating otherwise.

“There is definitely scope to professionalise, improve and raise the standards of the sector, and to rid the market of those rogue operators who do so much damage. There is an argument, too, for stronger tenant rights.

“But equally there are grievances from the majority of good landlords out there who feel they have been targeted and bashed for the last six or seven years.

“So, with that in mind, a more balanced set of proposals – offering more carrots to landlords – would have been a wiser move.


Nick Lyons, chief executive of property management service No Letting Go, adds: “While it’s pleasing that the White Paper has been published much sooner than expected – perhaps as the government tries to shift the agenda away from other issues – the reforms do seem a bit more radical than expected and don’t seem to give landlords much in the way of incentive or protection.

“It’s likely that there will be a fair bit of lobbying going on before it becomes the Renters’ Reform Bill and then starts its journey through Parliament. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of all this is the mention of pets, which has become an increasingly popular want from tenants, especially since the pandemic. 

“The government’s previous attempts to make it more of a right for tenants to keep pets didn’t work out well, and it would be surprising if this latest plan doesn’t face opposition, too.

“We’ll all need to closely scrutinise the White Paper and make sure that landlords, agents, tenants and suppliers alike are taken into consideration.” 

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    Tenants voting Tory ? can't see many doing that, I can see many landlords not voting Tory at the next GE though

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    Some of the reform ideas are OK, while others need work and far more detail.
    The portal will work better for some landlords than others. It should enable tenants to choose a long term professional landlord more easily, rather than an accidental one who can't wait to sell. It may well encourage rogue tenants to target inexperienced landlords.

    The changes to mandatory eviction grounds need to be fully published before any of us can decide if we think they're workable. One thing we do need is for the government to guarantee to never again ban evictions or tell tenants they can have a rent payment holiday. Local authorities need to have sufficient funding to treat everyone on a case by case basis and maintain tenancies wherever possible. A few hundred quid, a bit of mediation and some budgeting help is all it would take in many cases.

    The pets idea is highly contentious. A great many rental properties are completely unsuitable for pets and a great many tenants have never owned a pet so have no idea about the realities of animal welfare.

    My biggest concern is that there doesn't appear to be a minimum tenancy period. What would stop someone treating what should be a long term home as a very temporary holiday let? Two or three months rent would often be cheaper than a 2 week holiday let.
    How is it going to sit with mortgage lenders who want initial tenancy agreements to be between 6 months and 3 years?
    Treating student lets the same as every other type of let is also problematic. If students don't stay for the standard academic period those houses will be re let to professionals or the unemployed and it could be years before they return to the student market. Most university cities have got a workable balance right now often controlled with Article 4 planning restrictions. The focus was on balanced communities. If established student housing leaves the student market (and is re let as an HMO to other people) students will spread further away from the universities and potentially unbalance other areas. Or they will occupy more one and two bedroom properties close to universities and city centres, thereby preventing other people from occupying those first homes or downsizing homes. Either way the environmental impact would be significant with both students and professionals having longer journeys.


    Couple of yrs ago I had a guy and his teenage son move into a property, within a month he wanted to leave, nothing wrong with the house, he had made up with a former girlfriend and wanted to move in with her, I gave him an option of paying the rent until I found a new tenant and cover my expenses, he stayed the 6 month term paying the rent and then left, fair enough, now if this new ruling comes in a tenant will be able to leave a week after moving in, how is that fair to a landlord of a good property

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    I've always been a bit flexible with the end of tenancy.
    I tell the tenant the date they are legally liable until and ask what date they really intend to leave. New jobs and new tenancy agreements rarely coincide with the existing tenancy. Then I'll advertise the room as available from a couple of days after the date they intend to leave. Usually I get someone pretty close to that date so the outgoing tenant gets a few days rent refunding.
    When it works it's win, win, win.
    The outgoing tenant gets some money back, I don't have a void but have had time to do any decorating or cleaning and the new tenant gets to move in on a date that suits them and often saves paying for a few nights in a hotel.


    Jo there's being flexible and then there's being taken for a mug, I have a lady leaving a property on Monday she has been there 5 yrs always paying on time, she gave me a month's notice but not from a rent day I could have made her pay up to the 1st July, that's being flexible, leaving 1 month after moving is taking the P, there is a difference

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    Andrew - there is a difference and sometimes my flexibility will depend on the circumstances and attitude of the tenant. A few years ago I had a recent graduate move into an HMO. A few weeks later he was offered his dream job in Amsterdam. He very politely and excitedly explained the situation and agreed to pay until a replacement was found. He knew he was legally liable for over 4 months rent. I knew the room would be re let within a fortnight. Sometimes I think it's nice to be nice, especially if it doesn't actually cost me anything.

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    To be honest I never charged anyone any extra or required them to pay or stay if they wanted to leave just wished them well, some were glad to come back.
    It a shame the Landlord have no rights when its other way around. The Government is not listening so we are wasting our time making comments now, the decisions has been made regardless and we have been ignored, heaven’s knows we are blue in the face from telling them.
    I don’t buy all this media hype about Accidental Landlords. I am sure if you became a Landlord it was a deliberate conscious decision and nothing accidental about it, because of the abolition of Savers leaving them looking at their money dwindling year on year, so they had to do something even if it meant bidding against each other driving up property prices to unrealistic values. Maybe we should call them forced property owners.

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    Jo. Spot on as always with a balanced and sensible view.
    You wouldn't consider being our voice with the government would you?
    I have two problems, one with the aforementioned student HMO where the house is normally let to a new group by February for the following Sept. How can I do that now until this year's tenants leave.
    I also in the past have allowed some of the current tenants to stay on longer for part of the summer period which defrays some of the mortgage and council tax expenses. Now I am barred from doing that!
    Secondly I have a Holiday let which I normally let on a short winter let for 6 months from Oct to March each year. How can I take bookings for the summer before the winter let leaves at the end of March?
    More unintended consequences.
    Oh for an independant goverment working for the good of all, not playing political games and using some joined up thinking instead of pandering to the loudest voices all the time.
    Like you I have accomodated students who wanted to leave early during the pandemic, worked my backside ( won't allow me to use B*tt! ) off finding new short term working tenants to replace them so their tenancy could be cancelled and dealt with the complexities of council taxfor a house part ocuupied by students and part by council tax paying tenants.
    I also supported tenants on an AST during the lockdown by deferring more than 50% of their rent because of their particular circumstances only for them to run up an arrears billof over £3500 over the next 2 years and leave without payment and a severely sub standard house and two settees and a carpet, new when they went in 2 and a half years ago, covered in dog hairs from a non-existant dog. Took my wife and myself a month of hard work to bring it back to rentable condition with a full redecoration, several new doors and many holes and dents to be repaired alomg with a new barhroom floor where it had been allowed to rot through an unreported leak.


    A few yrs ago it would be normal for holiday lets around the Norfolk coast and the Broards to be rented out of season , now they have to sit empty, same thing applies to people working over seas for a yr or 2, they cannot risk that now, the properties will have to sit empty , madness isn't it ?


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