“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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