An ombudsman for renters to be included under new reforms that Martin Lewis says have been 'long needed' - here's what you need to know
Private renters in England will be able to take complaints to a new ombudsman under plans outlined in a new Bill introduced to Parliament today. MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis said the change has been "long-needed" though renters won't be able to benefit from it just yet.
Under the new 'The Renters Reform Bill', all private landlords who rent out properties in England will be required to join an ombudsman scheme, which will ensure disputes are settled quickly, at a low cost, and without going to court.
The new ombudsman will have powers to put things right, including compelling landlords to issue an apology, provide information, take remedial action and/or pay compensation of up to £25,000. Any landlords that don't sign up will face enforcement action.
However, the new Bill needs to pass through Parliament before it can become law and this can be a lengthy process – so it's not yet clear exactly when these new policies will come into effect. If you need help in the meantime, including if you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, see our Rent a property guide for your rights.
Martin Lewis: 'We have long needed a statutory single private rental Ombudsman'
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com said: "We have long needed a statutory single private rental ombudsman, so I'm pleased to see it in the legislative plans. After all, disputes are often between two individuals - landlord and tenant - rather than companies, so it can be very personal and difficult to sort.
"Crucially, it won't be voluntary; all private landlords will be required to join the ombudsman and it will have the legal authority to compel apologies, take remedial action and pay compensation."
Other rental support includes a ban on 'no fault' evictions
The Bill is designed to better protect eleven million tenants in private rental accommodation across England from poor landlord practice.
Other major reforms included in the Bill are as follows:
- Abolishing the 'no fault' Section 21 eviction rule. Currently, landlords can 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. This new Bill will stop landlords from doing this and a tenancy will only end if a tenant ends it themselves or a landlord has a valid reason.
- Introducing the legal right for tenants to have pets in their home. Tenants will have the legal right to request a pet in their home, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. Along with this, landlords will, however, be able to require pet insurance to cover any damage to their property.
- Increasing the notice period for rent increases from one month to two months. Tenants will also be able to challenge above-market rent increases through the First-tier Tribunal (a court specialising in this type of dispute) - this measure seeks to prevent above-market rent increases being used to force people out of their rented homes.
- Making it illegal for landlords and letting agents to blanket ban renting to tenants in receipt of benefits or with children. Under the new rules, such discrimination will no longer be allowed.
- Applying the 'Decent Homes Standard' to the private rented sector. This currently only applies to social housing and will 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.
- Introducing a property portal to help landlords understand their obligations. This portal will also give tenants performance information to hold their landlord to account, and help councils crack down on poor practice.
- Strengthening councils' enforcement powers and introducing a new requirement for councils to report on enforcement activity to help target criminal landlords. The Bill also provides for a "lead enforcement authority" to be established, which would provide advice and guidance to councils, as well as being able to take on complex or high-profile cases using its own powers.
Housing is a devolved matter and laws vary across the UK. For more information on renters' rights in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, see our full Renting help and tips guide or the Shelter charity's website.