Renters’ Reform Bill, Committee Stage amendments, House of Commons, 17 November 2023

This briefing provides the LGA view on relevant amendments tabled for the Committee Stage amendments on the Renters' Reform Bill, heard on 17 November 2023.


Key messages

This briefing provides the LGA view on relevant amendments tabled for the Committee Stage amendments on the Renters' Reform Bill, heard on 17 November 2023.

The LGA supports the inclusion of amendments that:

  • provide a more robust legal ground to ensure possession grounds for enforcement are truly a last resort, including clearly defining and producing guidance on what constitutes anti-social behaviour
  • deter landlords from misusing eviction grounds to evict tenants
  • give tenants greater security in their property and greater notice to be able to find alternative arrangements, thereby reduce the risk of homelessness
  • provide opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of the new legislation and make changes as necessary to ensure that the appropriate balance is being struck between the rights of tenants and landlords
  • give the landlord the ability to possess the property in order for them or their family to move in or to sell the property, while also giving tenants greater security and time to prepare for eviction
  • see social housing providers able to offer properties to another tenant, rather than only selling the property, when a rent-to-buy agreement has not been fulfilled
  • make the ground for eviction for rent arrears as discretionary, rather than mandatory
  • require landlords to be registered on the database in order to serve grounds for possession notices
  • provide clarity that county councils will have powers to enforce relevant parts of the legislation
  • provide clarity and reassurance to tenants that a tribunal cannot propose a higher rent than that initially proposed by the landlord
  • increase the maximum financial penalty from £5,000 to £30,000 for specific breaches of the legislation
  • increase the maximum financial penalty that could be imposed as an alternative to prosecution, from £30,000 to £60,000
  • impose a duty to require residential landlords to join a landlord redress scheme and we welcome the creation of an ombudsman for the private rented sector (PRS)
  • require the Property Portal to record details of notices of possession served by a landlord in respect of each dwelling of which they are the landlord
  • expand the use of rent repayment orders (RROs). We are also calling on the Government to go further and expand RROs to the following additional circumstances:
    • reletting or remarketing a property within the ‘prohibited period’ (currently three months). While we agree with Government that the ‘prohibited period’ will be a helpful mechanism to prevent the eviction grounds from becoming Section 21 by the backdoor, RROs will provide a far more robust deterrent and incentivise tenants to be proactively aware of their landlord’s compliance with the new regulations
    • letting a property without active relevant entries in the database
    • letting out a property that fails to meet minimum energy efficiency standards
  • require the energy performance certificates (EPCs) of relevant dwellings to be provided on the Property Portal
  • require the provision of information relating to dispute resolution for deposit protection schemes to be made available on the Property Portal
  • ensure a landlord gives or refuses consent to keep a pet within a property within 14 days
  • ensure a tenant may keep a pet for the duration of their tenancy once the landlord has given consent
  • will commit the government in law to publish guidance on what qualifies as a reasonable ground for refusal
  • increase the time between a landlord taking ownership of a property for the purposes of them or their family occupying it and making the property available to rent to six months
  • would utilise an existing definition of anti-social behaviour and remove the risk of eviction caused by the actions of one-off visitors, we also want to work with the government to better define anti-social behaviour in the context of renting to provide robust guidance for tenants and landlords alike.

The LGA opposes the inclusion of amendments that:

  • will remove local authorities’ discretion over when to accept a homelessness duty and decide if it can appropriately be discharged, in cases where they believe that an individual is not at risk of homelessness
  • limit rent increases for tenants in order to support affordability of tenancies, due to concerns on the impact that this level of market intervention could have on landlord appetite. We do however support the existing proposals in the Bill that seek to regulate rent increases to once a year, increase the notice period for rent increases from one to two months, and enable tenants to challenge above-market rent increases through an independent tribunal.

We are concerned by the ambiguity of the Bill’s definition of anti-social behaviour. Including all behaviour that is ‘capable of causing’ nuisance or annoyance, sets a low bar for what constitutes anti-social behaviour. We want to work with the government to better define anti-social behaviour in this context to reduce the risk of these grounds being open to abuse.

Homelessness services continue to be at the sharp end of the housing emergency and are facing unsustainable demand. An increasingly unaffordable private rented sector, combined with frozen Local housing Allowance (LHA) rates, a shortage of social housing, the rising cost-of-living and the impact of supporting new arrivals and refugees is creating the perfect storm for a homelessness crisis.

To address current pressures, we continue to call for Government to take a cross-departmental approach to homelessness prevention which tackles the drivers of homelessness and provides adequate funding for councils’ homelessness prevention work. This must include re-aligning LHA rates with at least the 30th percentile of market rents in the PRS, which is a key driver of homelessness.

Amendment statements

149 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would permit a court to refuse to make a possession order under Ground 6A where a more appropriate course of action exists.

LGA view

To avoid unnecessary evictions and avoid grounds for possession that are open to abuse, we agree that enforcement action should only be taken when all other options are exhausted. We, therefore, support this amendment that would provide a more robust legal ground to ensure possession grounds for enforcement are truly a last resort.

138 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require a landlord to evidence the progress toward occupation or sale of a property obtained under grounds of possession 1 or 1A no later than 16 weeks after the date of the order and to verify this by a statement of truth.

139 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require a landlord seeking possession of a property on the grounds of occupation or selling to evidence and verify in advance via a statement of truth.

LGA view on amendment 138 and 139

We support the mechanisms put in place in the Bill to give landlords flexibility to recover their property when needed, including grounds of possession 1 and 1A where the landlord or their family move in, or the landlord intends to sell the property. However, to reduce the chances of these being misused, we support this amendment that would deter landlords from misusing these grounds to evict tenants erroneously.

136 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would ensure that the minimum notice period for a number of ‘no fault’ grounds for possession would be four months rather than two.

LGA view

We support this amendment as it gives tenants greater security in their property and greater notice to be able to find alternative arrangements, thereby reduce the risk of homelessness.

137 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require the Government to publish a review of the impact of the amended grounds for possession within two years of the Act coming into force.

LGA view

We support this amendment as it will be important to evaluate the effectiveness of the new legislation and make changes as necessary to ensure that the appropriate balance is being struck between the rights of tenants and landlords.

192 (Lloyd Russell-Moyle)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would prohibit evictions under Ground 1 within six months of each rent increase giving periodic protection at each rent renewal.

193 (Lloyd Russell-Moyle)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would prohibit evictions under Ground 1A within six months of each rent increase giving periodic protection at each rent renewal.

LGA view on amendment 192 and 193

We support these amendments as they strike the right balance between giving the landlord the ability to possess the property in order for them or their family to move in or to sell the property, while also giving tenants greater security and sufficient time to prepare for eviction following their agreement to rent increases.

147 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would allow private registered providers of social housing to use new ground for possession 1B to offer properties to another tenant.

LGA view

We agree with this amendment which would see social housing providers able to offer properties to another tenant, rather than only selling the property, when a rent-to-buy agreement has not been fulfilled. This gives flexibility to support other high-priority cohorts waiting for social housing. This amendment should also be extended to include councils as landlords.

180 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would move new Ground 8A from the list of mandatory grounds for possession (in Part I of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988) to the list of discretionary grounds for possession (in Part II of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988).

LGA view

Regarding the mandatory ground for eviction for rent arrears, eviction should always be the last resort after other options, such as repayment plans, have been exhausted in order to reduce the risks of eviction and the threat of homelessness for tenants. We agree that making the ground for eviction for rent arrears as discretionary, rather than mandatory, strikes the right balance that allows the court to judge whether rent arrears are severe or problematic enough to warrant eviction.

130 (Helen Morgan)

Member's explanatory statements

This amendment would maintain the existing definition of anti-social behaviour as being conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance, rather than being defined as behaviour “capable of causing” nuisance or annoyance.

131 (Helen Morgan)

Member's explanatory statements

This amendment would clarify that visitors to a property displaying anti-social behaviour must be regular visitors, so that Ground 14 cannot be used to penalise tenants for the behaviour of a one-off visitor.

158 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement 158

This amendment would require landlords seeking possession on Ground 14 to have regard to any guidance produced by the government on what constitutes anti-social behaviour.

LGA view on amendment 130, 131 and 158

We are concerned by the ambiguity of the Bill’s definition of anti-social behaviour. Including all behaviour that is ‘capable of causing’ nuisance or annoyance, sets a low bar for what constitutes anti-social behaviour. Therefore, we support these amendments that would utilise an existing definition of anti-social behaviour and remove the risk of eviction caused by the actions of one-off visitors. We also want to work with the government to better define anti-social behaviour in the context of renting to provide robust guidance for tenants and landlords alike.

177 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require landlords to be registered on the database to serve grounds for possession notices.

LGA view

We support this amendment that would require landlords to be registered on the database in order to serve grounds for possession notices. This would help to create a more transparent system for tenants, by providing a ‘single front door’ to check important information about prospective properties and landlords.

178 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would maintain the homelessness prevention duty owed by local authorities to persons who have received a notice to vacate a property and would extend it to notices for possession issued under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988.

179 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would ensure that the homelessness prevention duty owed by a local authority cannot end whilst a valid notice under Section 8 of the Housing Act (1988) has been issued in respect of the only accommodation available to that person.

LGA view

We oppose this amendment and agree that, in line with our LGA response to the technical consultation on consequential changes to the homelessness legislation, that the Government’s Clause 18 in the Renters Reform Bill has taken forward Option 1 from the Government's technical consultation on consequential changes to the homelessness legislation. Local authorities will always assist households facing homelessness and this amendment will remove local authorities’ discretion over when to accept a homelessness duty and decide if it can appropriately be discharged, in cases where they believe that an individual is not at risk of homelessness.

However, homelessness services continue to be at the sharp end of the housing emergency and are facing unsustainable demand. An increasingly unaffordable private rented sector, combined with frozen LHA rates, a shortage of social housing, the rising cost-of-living and the impact of supporting new arrivals and refugees is creating the perfect storm for a homelessness crisis.

To address current pressures, we continue to call for Government to take a cross-departmental approach to homelessness prevention which tackles the drivers of homelessness and provides adequate funding for councils’ homelessness prevention work. This must include re-aligning LHA rates with at least the 30th percentile of market rents in the PRS, which is a key driver of homelessness.

Gov 78

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment confers a power to enforce the landlord legislation on county councils in England which are not local housing authorities and for that purpose enables such councils to exercise powers equivalent to local housing authorities.

LGA view

We support this amendment which provides clarity that county councils who have responsibility for trading standards enforcement in two-tier areas will have powers to enforce relevant parts of the legislation. Enforcement responsibilities relating to the private rented sector are split across local authority housing and environmental health teams and trading standards services, which in two-tier authorities sit separately within district and county councils respectively. It is vital that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) conducts a realistic assessment of the resources councils need to regulate the PRS effectively. New burdens funding should then be allocated accordingly.

200 (Lloyd Russell-Moyle)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment specifies that the annual increase in rent requested by a landlord may not exceed the lesser of either the Consumer Prices Index or wage growth in the relevant local authority area.

LGA view

While we recognise the intention of this amendment to limit rent increases for tenants in order to support affordability of tenancies, we would like urgent clarity on the impact that this level of market intervention would have on landlord appetite, both in terms of existing and new private rented sector supply, and the upkeep of existing stock. We do however support the existing proposals in the Bill that seek to regulate rent increases to once a year, increase the notice period for rent increases from one to two months, and enable tenants to challenge above-market rent increases through an independent Tribunal.

160 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would ensure that where a rent assessment is carried out by a tribunal, the rent subsequently determined by that tribunal cannot be higher than that originally requested by a landlord in a Section 13 notice.

190 (Caroline Lucas)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would mean that the rent payable after a tribunal determination can be no higher than the rent initially proposed by the landlord in the notice served on the tenant.

LGA view on amendment 160 and 190

We support both of these amendments which would provide clarity and reassurance to tenants that a tribunal cannot propose a higher rent than that initially proposed by the landlord. Determining the market rent of a property is not a simple task, hence why challenges go to through the Tribunal. It is unreasonable that the burden of accurately assessing the rent should fall to the tenant in order to have the confidence to seek a determination from a tribunal. If a tribunal were able to propose increases to tenants’ rents above that proposed by a landlord, it will inherently discourage the use of this process and undermine its purpose of providing tenants with stronger protections against excessive rent hikes. It is therefore vital that the Tribunal can only confirm or reduce a proposed rent increase – but not increase it.

163 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that local authorities could levy against a landlord or former landlord that they are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt has contravened provisions contained in clauses 9 (inserted Section 16D of the Housing Act 1988) or 10 (inserted Section 16E).

165 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that local authorities could impose on a person if it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that they have breached the requirement in Clause 24 to be a member of an approved or designated redress scheme or in instances where a property has been marketed where the landlord is not yet a member of a landlord redress scheme.

LGA view

We support both of these amendments that would increase the maximum financial penalty from £5,000 to £30,000 for specific breaches of the legislation. To act as an effective deterrent to landlords, we are calling for the maximum financial penalty that local housing authorities can issue to landlords for any breaches to the legislation to be increased from £5000 to £30,000 (with a minimum limit of £500). This is in line with other financial penalties that can be issued by enforcement authorities against landlords who breach legislation, for example the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act (2022).

166 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that a local housing authority may impose on a person as an alternative to prosecution, if it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence under clause 27 has been committed.

LGA view

To act as a further deterrent to landlords, we support this amendment that would increase the maximum financial penalty that could be imposed as an alternative to prosecution, from £30,000 to £60,000.

174 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would impose a duty on the government to require residential landlords as defined in Clause 23 to join a landlord redress scheme.

LGA view

We suppose this amendment that would impose a duty to require residential landlords to join a landlord redress scheme. We welcome the creation of an ombudsman for the PRS. This will ensure that PRS tenants have the same access to redress as those living in social housing and will ensure that tenants can hold landlords accountable for poor standards or non-compliance.

175 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require the database to record details of notices of possession served by a landlord in respect of each dwelling of which they are the landlord.

LGA view

We support this amendment that would require the Property Portal to record details of notices of possession served by a landlord in respect of each dwelling of which they are the landlord. This would help to create a more transparent system for tenants, by providing a ‘single front door’ to check important information about prospective properties and landlords.

NC54 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This new clause would require the Government to publish a review of the impact of the amended grounds for possession within two years of the Act coming into force.

LGA view

We support this amendment as it will be important to evaluate the effectiveness of the new legislation and make changes as necessary to ensure that the appropriate balance is being struck between the rights of tenants and landlords.

NC55 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This new clause would place a duty on the Government to produce guidance on what constitutes anti-social behaviour for the purpose of assisting landlords to determine when Ground 14 conditions have been fulfilled.

LGA view

We support this amendment that would enshrine in law the Government’s commitment to bring forward guidance outlining what constitutes anti-social behaviour. We have concerns regarding the ambiguity of the Bill’s definition of anti-social behaviour. Including all behaviour that is ‘capable of causing’ nuisance or annoyance sets a low bar for what constitutes anti-social behaviour. We want to work with the government to better define anti-social behaviour in this context to reduce the risk of these grounds being open to abuse.

NC56 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

NC56 - This new clause would extend the discretion of the court to adjourn proceedings, and stay, suspend or postpone any orders made, to cases where possession is sought under grounds 6, 8, and 8A.

LGA view

We agree that making the ground for eviction for rent arrears and redevelopment as discretionary, rather than mandatory, strikes the right balance that allows the court to judge whether rent arrears are severe or problematic enough to warrant eviction.

NC57 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This new clause would ensure that rent repayment orders can be made to the landlord under the relevant tenancy in any instance where a financial penalty or offence is made relating to clauses 9, 10, 24 or 27 of the Bill.

LGA view

We support this amendment. We continue to call on Government to expand the use of Rent Repayment Orders (RROs) to the following additional circumstances:

  • reletting or remarketing a property within the ‘prohibited period’ (currently three months) – while we agree with Government that the ‘prohibited period’ will be a helpful mechanism to prevent the eviction grounds from becoming Section 21 by the backdoor, RROs will provide a far more robust deterrent and incentivise tenants to be proactively aware of their landlord’s compliance with the new regulations
  • letting a property without active relevant entries in the database
  • letting out a property that fails to meet minimum energy efficiency standards.

191 (Caroline Lucas)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require energy performance certificates in relation to relevant dwellings to be provided to the database operator and details to be recorded in the database.

LGA view

We support this amendment which requires the energy performance certificates of relevant dwellings to be provided on the Property Portal. This would create a more transparent system for tenants, by providing a ‘single front door’ to check important information about prospective properties and landlords.

202 (Lloyd Russell-Moyle)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require regulations made by the Secretary of State to require the provision of information relating to dispute resolution for deposit protection schemes.

LGA view

We support this amendment which requires the provision of information relating to dispute resolution for deposit protection schemes to be made available on the Property Portal. This would create a more transparent system for tenants, by providing a ‘single front door’ to check important information about prospective properties and landlords.

167 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that local authorities could impose on a person for breach of a requirement imposed by Clause 39.

168 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that local authorities could impose on a person for committing an offence under Section 48.

LGA view on amendment 167 and 168

We support both amendments 167 and 168 that would increase the maximum financial penalty from £5,000 to £30,000 for breaches of requirements in Clause 39, and from £30,000 to £60,000 for committing offences under Section 48 of the legislation. To act as an effective deterrent to landlords, we are calling for the maximum financial penalty that local housing authorities can issue to landlords for any breaches to the legislation to be increased from £5,000 to £30,000 (with a minimum limit of £500). This is in line with other financial penalties that can be issued by enforcement authorities against landlords who breach legislation, for example the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022.

183 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would ensure a landlord gives or refuses consent in writing within 14 days of the request being made.

LGA view

We support the amendment that would ensure a landlord gives or refuses consent within 14 days. This will provide a faster decision for tenants on whether they have consent to keep a pet within the property.

182 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment ensures that a tenant may keep a pet for the duration of their tenancy once consent has been given.

LGA view

We support this amendment that would ensure a tenant may keep a pet for the duration of their tenancy once the landlord has given consent. This will provide reassurance throughout the tenancy period and reduce the risk of homelessness if the consent to keep a pet is withdrawn during a tenancy. There may be exceptional circumstances that arise on a case-by-case basis where consent may need to be withdrawn and the legislation should provide flexibility to address those scenarios.

181 (Matthew Pennycook)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require the Government to publish guidance on what qualifies as a reasonable ground of refusal for a tenant to keep a pet.

LGA view

We support this amendment which will commit the government in law to publish guidance on what qualifies as a reasonable ground for refusal. This should help guide decision-making and outline examples of reasonable and unreasonable requests. This guidance should also support tenants to challenge decisions where they think that their request has been unreasonably rejected.

132 (Helen Morgan)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would increase the time which must elapse between a landlord taking ownership of a property for the purposes of them or their family occupying it and making the property available to rent from three months to six months.

133 (Helen Morgan)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would increase the time which must elapse between a landlord taking ownership of a property for the purposes of them or their family occupying it and the landlord authorising a letting agent to make the property available to rent from three months to six months.

LGA view 132 and 133

We support both of these amendments which would increase the time between a landlord taking ownership of a property for the purposes of them or their family occupying it and making the property available to rent to six months. This will disincentive the grounds being misused and act as a mechanism to evict tenants from. We would like government to publish statutory guidance which places robust requirements on landlords to provide reasonable evidence they are selling the property, moving in themselves or moving in a family member.

Contact

Elliot Gregory

Public Affairs and Campaigns Adviser

[email protected]