A big change is coming to the rental sector. The Renters (Reform) Bill is working its way through Parliament, and promises a big shake-up. 

The Bill contains a whole host of measures, but there’s one that all landlords are talking about: the abolition of no-fault evictions. Landlords want to know how they’ll get possession without being able to rely on section 21. 

We’re seeing lots of queries on this, so I thought now was a good time for a full overview of the Bill. I’ll cover its contents, when and whether it will become law, and finally what it means for possession. First off, let’s start with what’s in the Bill. 

What is in the Renters (Reform) Bill? 

The Government is presenting the Renters (Reform) Bill as a rebalancing of landlords’ and tenants’ rights. The official guidance on the Bill (which you can read here in full) says it will “remove section 21 evictions, while strengthening landlords’ other rights of possession”. 

So, they are repealing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. On the other hand, the Government says it will be easier to  

Other measures include: 

  • Making it illegal for landlords to put blanket bans on tenants on benefits or with children. 
  • Establishing a Private Rented Sector Ombudsman to help settle disputes. 
  • Creating a “Private Rented Sector Database”, with a digital portal where all rented properties must be registered.  
  • Strengthening the rights of tenants to have pets. Landlords will have to justify any refusal to allow pets. 

These vary in impact, but add it all up and it’s a hugely significant change. The next question is when it will happen – and that’s not as simple as it sounds …

What’s the timetable of the Renters (Reform) Bill? 

First off, the Bill is not law yet, and it could be a while before it is. The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) estimates that it won’t become law until 2024. It could also change between now and then, as MPs and Peers will have opportunities to amend it. 

I’ll offer a quick rundown of why. The Government introduced the Bill to Parliament in May 2023. The next stage is what’s called the second reading in the House of Commons – but this is far from the last step. 

Next is the committee stage, the report stage and a third reading. After all that, the same process repeats in the House of Lords. Only then can it become law. Some steps are quicker than others, but this can take months. Between now and then, we may see any number of amendments to the Bill. 

What’s unusual here is that the Government still hasn’t scheduled the second reading. Normally, this quickly follows the first reading (the introduction of a bill). However, the House of Commons has its summer recess from 20th July. This means that a second reading is more likely in September

Will the Renters (Reform) Bill change? 

The simplest, most honest answer is “maybe”. At this stage, it’s as much a political question as a legal one. The Government has a majority in Parliament, and this Bill came from a manifesto pledge. 

That’s normally enough to get a bill through Parliament and into law. However, as I’ve touched upon, MPs and Peers will be able to amend it. While that’s the case, pressure groups and campaigners are still able to influence those votes. For instance, the NLRA has an active campaign on behalf of landlords. Meanwhile, homelessness charity Shelter is lobbying on behalf of tenants

These and other campaigns could influence MPs’ voting and amendments. First, however, that second reading needs to happen. This brings us back to the unusual delay we’re seeing. 

It seems unlikely that second reading will happen before Parliament’s summer recess on 20th July. There could be any number of political reasons for this. Some are even speculating that the Government might drop the law altogether.  

So far, there have been no indications of this – which means it’s wise to start preparing. And that brings us to the final question …

What will the Renters (Reform) Bill mean for possession? 

We’re back full circle. There are lots of measures in the bill, but the scrapping of no-fault evictions is the biggest topic by far. 

If the Bill comes into force, landlords will have to have a reason to evict a tenant. That means serving a section 8 notice as a first step to possession. The Bill also creates more grounds to enable landlords to get possession. 

For instance, the Bill allows possession if a landlord wants to sell or move back into their property – but this won’t be possible in the first six months of the tenancy. 

What if tenants are in arrears?

If tenants are in arrears, there are specific grounds for possession. One of these conditions has to apply within a three-year period:

  • When rent is monthly, at least two months’ rent was in arrears for at least a day on at least three occasions. 
  • When rent is paid at intervals shorter than a month, at least eight weeks’ rent was in arrears for at least a day on at least three occasions. 

These are measures that landlords will have to get to grips with. It’s also complicated by cases where tenants rely on universal credit. When calculating those arrears, landlords have to ignore any part amount covered by a universal credit payment the tenant didn’t receive. 

In my view, it’s highly likely that some tenants will use this as part of a defence against claims for possession. This creates the potential for all sorts of disputes and delays. 

How should landlords prepare for the Renters (Reform) Bill? 

Without section 21, landlords lose a fall-back option that many rely on. While they will have new and expanded grounds for possession, these come with complications. 

Meanwhile, uncertainty remains over the basics. Will the Bill survive in its current form? When – if at all – will it become law? No one can be completely certain here. But my advice is simple. Landlords should start to prepare for those headline measures. If the Bill becomes law, landlords’ rights and responsibilities will change. Quite simply, it’s essential to understand what you can and can’t do. 

At the same time, it’s well worth keeping an eye out for updates on the Bill. I’ve no doubt that we’ll be discussing it here again before long. In the meantime, there’s no substitute for quality advice. If you want to understand more about how the Bill might affect you personally, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

Alina De Heer
- Post author

Alina De Heer

Alina has dealt with landlord and tenant disputes since 2014, and qualified as a solicitor in 2017. She acts for both landlord and tenant, companies and individuals, as well as managing agents, residents’ associations and Right to Manage companies, often appearing on behalf of clients in the local County Court.