A Bill that is currently making its way through Parliament could spell further changes to the private lettings industry.
The Renters Rights Bill, which was introduced by Liberal Democrat Baroness Grender, a former director of communications for Shelter, has been put forward to improve the quality of the sector for tenants. Grender contends that private tenants are being failed by the private rental market, and believed that tenants have less rights than people who are buying fridges!
Sounds serious! But what exactly does the Bill contain, and what does it mean for me?
It could mean big changes for the industry, both landlords and agents, if the Bill is passed. The main issues that would arise include:
Amendments to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 by opening the register of rogue landlords and letting agents to tenants:
This would allow tenants and prospective tenants the opportunity to see clearly if they are going to be dealing with a landlord or agent who is deemed to be ‘rogue’. The register has not yet been created, but was originally planned to only be available for local authorities and Government bodies to review. This would ensure that tenants do not have to deal with landlords or agents who have previously provided poor service, which would theoretically improve their overall experience of renting privately.
Ban rogue landlords from owning HMOs: Further to exposing rogue landlords to prospective tenants, the bill has plans to ban rogue landlords from being able to own HMOs. This would mean that anyone who is featured on the register would not be able to gain an HMO license.
The banning of lettings agents’ fees: The fees that the bill is hoping to wipe out include: admin fees, inventory check fees; reference check fees; renewal fees; and exit fees. It is believed that the fees are ‘prohibitive’ and a ‘rip-off’ and that they are hard for tenants to afford when they also have to swallow the cost of moving.
Why has this bill been proposed, have we not been through enough?
It certainly might feel like this new Bill is just another swipe at landlords and the private rental market, however, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is looking to improve the quality of the sector for tenants, not penalise honest, hardworking landlords who are sticking to the rules.
Is anyone fighting our corner?
There has been plenty of controversy about this Bill already, least of all about the exposure of the rogue landlord database. It has been suggested that a similar database for ‘rogue renters’, where landlords and letting agents are able to share information on troublesome tenants would level the playing field.
So, what happens next?
The Renters' Rights Bill has passed its second reading and will now move to committee stage. Whilst under normal circumstances it would be unlikely that the Bill would be law without government backing, a petition to ban letting agent fees has been submitted to Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, with over 250,000 signatures, so support for this cause is particularly strong.
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