LGA calls for rent repayment orders
The long-awaited Renters (Reform) Bill has been introduced to Parliament, almost a year after the publication of the Government’s ‘A fairer private rented sector’ White Paper.
The Bill is a landmark opportunity to improve security and conditions for tenants in the private rented sector and make it fit for the future.
The legislation introduces a range of reforms to achieve this, including: abolishing unfair Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions; ending the system of assured shorthold tenancies; creating a new register of private sector landlords and a property portal to improve data on the sector for tenants and enforcement authorities; and establishing a redress scheme through a new ombudsman.
Councils will play a key role in the delivery and enforcement of these reforms, including ensuring compliance with the landlord register, property portal and grounds for possession, and enforcing the new Decent Homes Standard, which the Government will introduce in secondary legislation.
While local government has the appetite to drive up standards in the private rented sector, many councils continue to face significant challenges in resourcing their enforcement teams to undertake the scale of proactive work that is needed.
Ahead of the Bill’s first debate in Parliament, the LGA has been impressing upon government and MPs that adequately resourcing councils will be fundamental to the success of the reforms.
We are also calling on government to urgently work with sector experts to develop a skills and capacity-building strategy to tackle workforce challenges in regulatory and enforcement teams.
Without this, the legislation is unlikely to deliver the changes for tenants that are desperately needed.
“Councils will play a key role in the enforcement of these reforms“
As the Bill progresses through Parliament, we will be working with government to refine the legislation to close loopholes and ensure councils have the right tools to make it work on the ground.
Enforcing several key aspects of the Bill will rely heavily on tenants understanding their rights and being able to identify and report non-compliance.
We therefore believe that local housing authorities and tenants should be able to seek rent repayment orders from landlords that do not comply with the landlord register and property portal, or misuse grounds for eviction.
As well as acting as an additional deterrent to fines, the ability to claim back rent would incentivise tenants to check for and report non-compliance – in turn, supporting and reducing the burden on councils’ enforcement teams.
We will also be working to ensure that the new grounds for eviction are not open to abuse, and that councils have full local flexibility to employ selective licensing schemes.
While the Bill is a vital step forward, it will do nothing to support private renters who are already struggling to afford their rent alongside other cost-of-living pressures. That is why we continue to press government on the need for urgent action to tackle the drivers of the housing emergency.
This includes empowering councils to deliver a step-change in council house building, and ensuring the private rented sector is an affordable option for low-income households by realigning local housing allowance with at least the 30th percentile of local property values.
To find out more about the LGA’s work in Parliament, please visit www.local.gov.uk/parliament