The much-awaited government white paper on ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ was published today. It sets out to address some of the issues that private renters all too often face, including substandard living conditions, no-fault evictions, spiralling rents and the challenges faced by people on benefits in the private rental sector.
There is much to be welcomed for tenants in the white paper’s 12-point action plan, importantly:
- An end to section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions
- Requiring privately rented homes to meet the Decent Homes Standard
- Rent repayment orders if homes do not meet the Decent Homes Standard
- Disallowing landlords/agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children and those in receipt of benefits
- New powers for the Housing Ombudsman/local authorities to enforce housing standards
- Restrictions on rent increases
It remains to be seen whether increasing the regulatory powers of local authorities and the housing ombudsman will bring about improvements in the circumstances of renters, especially if the government does not match its reforms with funds to properly investigate and enforce standards. Enabling tenants to access rent repayment orders and encouraging the use of the ombudsman are progressive steps; however, we are doubtful as to whether renters will be able to pursue these remedies without additional assistance.
More positively, the much heralded abolition of section 21 is a clear benefit to renters but this is somewhat offset by the government’s indication that they will introduce new grounds for possession for ‘serious rent arrears’. Renters in the private sector often experience high rents, fluctuating income and a benefit system that does not always cover their full housing costs. The new ground for possession has the potential to capture more renters who have no choice but to take on either self-employed or insecure work. Greater controls on rent increases are helpful but likely to be insufficient to stave off the pressure on housing costs from the cost of living crisis.
As with many government proposals, the devil will be in the detail and time will tell if this is entirely good news for renters.
Read the full measures in ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ here.