United Kingdom

Levelling up the private rented sector

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The government’s new Levelling Up White Paper contains big reforms for the private rented sector in England, and agents and landlords are bracing for impact.

The White Paper calls for the long-expected scrapping of Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions. It also sets out plans to extend the Decent Homes Standard – which is currently only in force for social housing – to privately rented homes, and to create a national landlord register.

Activist groups welcomed the news, with Shelter saying the reforms are a crucial step towards making renting fairer for tenants. But industry groups questioned local authorities’ ability to police the new standards. Without the staff and resources to carry out regular inspections, they may not do much to improve housing quality. ARLA Propertymark also called for the government to make all remaining grounds for eviction mandatory to protect landlords from rogue tenants.

Ministers have announced that a more detailed Rental Reform White Paper will be published in the spring. This paper was previously delayed to allow for further consultation, so industry professionals will hope their concerns have been heard.

Property professionals may also wonder if the reforms will happen at all. The Levelling Up White Paper sets out goals to be achieved by 2030 – which leaves plenty of time for them to be derailed by changing priorities or a change of leadership. Several items in it were taken directly from Theresa May’s scrapped 2017 industrial strategy, and, it must be acknowledged, rental market reform has been pushed back several times since it was first announced in 2019.

Even without detail, though, the new rules are already affecting the rental market. Landlords and agents are hedging against the risk of a more difficult eviction process by asking applicants to pay several months’ rent up front or have a rental guarantor in place. With tenant demand outpacing the supply of properties (see next story), they can also afford to be more selective about who they rent to, meaning that poorer tenants could lose out.

Other tenant headlines

Shelter says eviction surge justifies scrapping Section 21 – Letting Agent Today

MPs vote through 3.1% increase in benefit payments to tenants – LandlordZONE

Greener rented homes may cut tenant bills by £844m: Hamptons – Mortgage Strategy

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