The Government has today finally published the long-awaited Rental Reform white paper. 

The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper sets out their goals in ‘reformingthe private rented sector.

The white paper has proposed many changes to the sector and looks to form a basis for a future Bill. You can read a full summary here. With the industry wondering what short and long-term effects the changes could have on landlords’ ability to reclaim possession of their properties, our Head of Legal and Claims, Will Eastman, offers his thoughts on what was published.

“It is reassuring to see that the numbers recognise that most landlords in the sector do a ‘good’ job and respect their tenants’ rights. Nevertheless, there are changes that attempt to reduce further the numbers of landlords that are deemed ‘bad’ and increase the standards of housing.

Among the proposals is the anticipated abolishment of section 21, a subject I have written about previously. It is safe to say good landlords do not evict good tenants without reason. However, section 21 has been used by landlords to try and alleviate the results of a broken system. The abolishment of S21 would not be the catastrophic blow to landlords that some suggest as long as the system is appropriately reformed. It is only right in today’s society that tenants can live with the reassurance that they cannot be evicted without reason. However, in the same breath, Landlords must also have an efficient way of taking back possession where there is a legitimate reason to do so. Currently, the structure is littered with court systems and processes that aren’t fit for purpose, a lack of judicial availability, and substantial delays caused by excessive court backlogs.

The white paper does touch on some reforms for the court system but, in my view, fails to substantiate clear and robust plans for doing so. The paper suggests that prioritising certain cases, increasing bailiff capacity, digitising paper-based processes, providing earlier legal advice, and providing mediation as part of the process will make the court more efficient. Whilst all of these may be helpful, it does not address the underlying issues driving the current inefficiencies.

The paper attempts to ‘level the playing field’ by proposing enhanced rights and powers, but it does not address the system’s continued lack of funding and resourcing. Until the system is adequately funded with the appropriate resources, these changes will cause further chaos and confusion. For example, a local authority with increased enforcement powers but without the resources to investigate and use them results in little change. 

We will have to wait to see what changes in practice; however, whilst I welcome more transparent regulation of the sector and a better balance of rights between landlords and tenants, this is unlikely to achieve that.” 

This article is for general information only and is not intended to be legal advice or formal guidance.