Concerns surrounding the Renters Reform Bill
The Renters Reform Bill, published on 17 May promises increased protections for renters. The Bill is making its way through Parliament, and now that the dust has settled, we can consider why the Bill is of concern to various parties.
The Bill will abolish no-fault evictions (also known as ‘Section 21’ evictions). Whilst the Bill aims to introduce more comprehensive grounds for repossession and make it easier for landlords to recover their property when the tenants are at fault, many landlords and letting agents are concerned about the impact of these measures.
The Bill will allow landlords to evict tenants in cases of ‘anti social’ behaviour or if the tenant is in rent arrears. Currently, a ‘Section 8’ eviction notice would be served on tenants who have broken the terms of the tenancy. The Bill proposes that except in cases of anti social behaviour, such notices cannot be served unless the tenancy deposit is held in accordance with an authorised scheme and ‘Prescribed Information’ is given to the tenant in the required format, unless the deposit is returned to the tenant.
Landlords and agents are concerned that if an unscrupulous tenant is in rent arrears or has caused damage to the property, the eviction notice will not be issued by the court because of minor errors in paperwork. They fear that the only way of evicting problematic tenants would be to return their deposit. Fears about the potential legal costs involved are widespread.
Ending fixed-term tenancies
The Bill also proposes scrapping fixed-term tenancies by moving to “a simpler tenancy structure where all assured tenancies are periodic”. This is of particular concern to landlords who rent their properties to students.
Such landlords rent properties to students for 12-month fixed term tenancies. Under the proposed rules, if one student decided to stay on in the property, it could block another group moving in. Similiarly, if one student vacated a room early, income would be lost for the remainder of the academic year.
With such concerns, there is uncertainty surrounding the number of student properties available at the start of the next academic year; landlords may decide that the proposed rules may make letting to students too onerous.
The National Union of Students has said that students would be an ‘underclass’ if they were exempt from the reforms.
The government has said it is engaging with both students and landlords.
HMRC targets Airbnb hosts
As part of its Let Property campaign, HMRC has been sending ‘nudge’ letters to those who it suspects have not been declaring all of their rental income. Recently it seems that HMRC has taken a tougher approach, and is targeting those in the short-term rental market.
It was recently made known that the Airbnb booking platform was compelled to provide HMRC with income data for all of its UK-based hosts dating back to the 2017/18 tax year. If the information provided by Airbnb is not consistent with the income declared on a person’s tax return, that person could face a discovery assessment and penalties.
If you think you may have underdeclared your property income, now is the time to act; you can make a disclosure under HMRC’s Let Property campaign which offers favourable terms and reduced penalties for making a disclosure.
Information about the campaign can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/let-property-campaign-your-guide-to-making-a-disclosure/let-property-campaign-your-guide-to-making-a-disclosure
Wales: Adequate housing, fair rents and affordability
On 6 June 2023 the Welsh Government launched its consultation ‘Securing a path towards adequate housing, fair rents and affordability’.
The consultation seeks views on:
- understanding rents;
- tenant and landlord behaviour;
- affordability; and
- ways to improve the supply and adequacy of housing over time.
In an attempt to avoid rent controls being imposed, The National Residents Landlords Association is urging landlords in the Welsh private rented sector to respond to the consultation and make their views known.The Association believes that rent controls will reduce the number of available rental properties and that the way forward is to introduce pro-growth measures that will increase the housing supply and reduce costs for renters.
The consultation closes on 15 September 2023.
Scotland: Rents cap and evictions freeze extended to March 2024
The cap on rents and freeze on evictions in Scotland were introduced on October 2022 as measures to help combat rising inflation. Originally set to end in March 2023, the measures were then extended to September 2023.
On 1 June, a further extension was announced to March 2024. The Scottish Government has said this will be the last extension, but there may be less severe restrictions introduced post March 2024.