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Protection against rent hikes, abolition of 'no fault' evictions and right to a pet announced by Government – here's what you need to know

Renters will be given a greater ability to challenge landlords over poor practices and unreasonable rent rises, the Government announced today (Thursday 16 June). The changes form part of a sweeping package of reforms designed to give better rights to private renters.

Section 21 evictions – commonly referred to as 'no-fault' evictions – will also finally be banned.

These measures, announced in the Government's Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper, are designed to help the 4.4 million households in private rental accommodation across England (equivalent to 11 million people), with hopes that legislation could be introduced within the next year. The proposals include:

Safeguards against unreasonable rent rises and poor quality homes

A number of changes to the rules about how rent can be increased have been proposed in the White Paper.

Among the proposals, the Government said that it would cap the number of times a landlord can increase the rent of a private property to once a year, and would also end arbitrary rent review clauses. Such clauses enable landlords to review, and potentially hike, the level of rent a tenant pays at different points throughout a tenancy.

Additionally, private tenants will also be given an improved ability to challenge unjustified rent increases through the First-tier Tribunal, according to the White Paper.

Landlords will also need to double the amount of notice they give tenants if they plan to increase the level of rent. Currently, landlords must give a minimum of one month's notice (if the tenant pays the rent weekly or monthly), meaning statutory notice will eventually increase to two months.

The Government also announced that the Decent Homes Standard, which currently only applies to social housing, will be extended to apply to the private rental market too. This'll mean that privately rented homes must, among other things, be free from health and safety hazards, fall and fire risks, and carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as ensuring they don't fall into disrepair.

According to the White Paper, some 2.8 million people in England are currently paying to live in homes that 'are not fit for the 21st century', including 1.6 million who are living in 'dangerously low-quality homes'. Under the proposals, where a rental home does not conform to the Decent Homes Standard, tenants will be liable to be repaid part of their rent.

End of so-called 'no fault' evictions

The White Paper confirmed that 'no fault' Section 21 evictions will be banned for good in England. This will be achieved by moving all tenants with an assured shorthold tenancy or assured tenancy on to a new single tenancy structure.

Currently, landlords can normally evict tenants whose fixed-term contract has ended for no reason. If asked to move out, a tenant then has two months to leave the property. But new legislation will stop landlords from doing this without a concrete reason.

A tenancy therefore will only end if a tenant ends it themselves or a landlord has a valid reason, according to the White Paper. Tenants will have to give two months of notice though if they wish to end a tenancy.

Between 2019 and 2020, around 22% of private renters who moved home did not end their tenancy by choice, according to the White Paper. This included 8% who were asked to leave by their landlord.

Establishment of a new private renters' ombudsman

Again, the White Paper confirmed that a new private renters' ombudsman will be created, an idea that had been previously mooted.

The ombudsman will be aimed at ensuring disputes between private renters and landlords are settled quickly, at a low cost, and without going to court. The ombudsman will cover all properties let by private landlords, with landlords required to sign up to the ombudsman.

Tenants will be able to use the ombudsman for free. The ombudsman itself will have the power, where appropriate, to order a landlord to issue an apology, or even award compensation of up to £25,000.

Ending discrimination against families, benefit recipients and those with pets

According to the White Paper, landlords will also be banned from discriminating against families and people who receive benefits, with the possibility of this ban being extended to include prison leavers.

In 2021, an English Private Landlord Survey found that 44% of landlords were unwilling to let to tenants receiving housing support or universal credit. But under the new rules, such discrimination will no longer be allowed.

Under the reforms, all tenants will also have a statutory right to request permission to keep a pet. Landlords will be obliged to consider the request and will only be able to refuse if they have a satisfactory reason, though they themselves will have the right to ask the tenant to take out pet insurance.

The same English Private Landlord Survey found that just under half of landlords were unwilling to let to tenants who owned a pet.

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