Renters (Reform) Bill – Where Are We Now (Again, Landlords Of Students Take Note)?

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On 15 May 2024 the Renters (Reform) Bill (the Bill) will have its second reading in the House of Lords. That is to say, legislators will be considering the Bill and amendments...
UK Real Estate and Construction
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On 15 May 2024 the Renters (Reform) Bill (the Bill) will have its second reading in the House of Lords. That is to say, legislators will be considering the Bill and amendments that have been proposed by parliamentarians so far. These amendments seek, inter alia, to strengthen perceived weaknesses in the Bill, and give clarity to stakeholders as to what the Bill will look like in practice.

While landlords of students will have a particular interest in following what happens to purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) and student accommodation in general (see our earlier insight on the Bill from when it completed Public Committee stage last year), there are amendments that are of interest to all those in the sector. We consider the key amendments below, with the caveat that they will not take effect unless approved by parliamentarians.

What does the Bill look like now?

  1. Existing notices seeking possession will be valid when the Bill becomes law - an amendment clarifies that notices seeking possession pursuant to s.21 will be valid, if they were served before the Bill comes into force. Therefore, as long as the notice seeking possession was served before this time, a landlord can begin possession proceedings after the Bill becomes law. The tenancy will remain an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) until proceedings are concluded or become time-barred.
  2. Student accommodation possession ground not just for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) - as flagged in our earlier insight on the amended Bill, the ground of possession for students applied only to HMOs (Ground 4A). This meant that only landlords of student HMOs could use this ground to obtain vacant possession in-keeping with the academic year. An amendment to Ground 4A drops the requirement that the property is a HMO, so that any landlord in the private rental sector (PRS) letting to students can use this ground for possession (as long as they adhere to the requirements, such as giving advance notice of their intention to rely on this ground).
  3. Exemption for PBSA - it is understood that the Government is intending to exempt PBSA from the reform, allowing fixed-term assured tenancies to continue to be granted. However, you will not see this as an amendment to the Bill - the exemption will be possible by exercise of powers in Schedule 1 of the Housing Act 1988 (Tenancies Which Cannot be Assured Tenancies).
  4. Definition of 'anti-social behaviour' (ASB) amended - currently, to evict a tenant on the basis of anti-social behaviour, the conduct must be likely to cause 'nuisance and annoyance'. This amendment proposes to change the definition to conduct, so that it is simply 'capable' of causing nuisance and annoyance. The effect of this amendment would effectively be to reduce the evidential burden on landlords seeking to evict - it is not necessary that someone had been annoyed by the behaviour; landlords can simply show that it was likely. This could mean that fewer witnesses need come forward with direct evidence, which could result in shorter, and less costly proceedings.
  5. Abolition of ASTs/s.21 notices delayed until further review - a government announcement to this effect has already been given, and that commitment could now become law by virtue of this amendment. This amendment requires a review of residential possession proceedings in the county courts, before those relevant parts of the Bill come into force. Given the significant backlog in the county courts, we await with interest the findings of the review, when it takes place.
  6. Renters reform only applies to tenancies once they are converted to periodic tenancies - to find out when this conversion occurs, it is necessary to identify the 'extended application date'. This is the trigger and/or deadline used frequently in the Bill. It is the date that the assured tenancy converts to a periodic tenancy on or after the commencement date of the Bill.

What will happen next on the RRB?

The Bill's second reading in the House of Lords this week will bring it one step closer to being finalised and becoming submitted for Royal Assent. Our team will continue to monitor its progress through Parliament and share any updates on further amendments for those operating in the private rental sector.

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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