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MPs slam unintended consequences of looming PRS reforms

rent arrears

MPs have slammed the Government's proposed reforms to the private rented sector (PRS) within its looming Renters Reform Bill, calling for Ministers to wake up to its unintended consequences.

Their report, published this morning, also makes the point that most tenants are not worried by insecure housing or low-quality properties, but high rents caused by the Government's recent attempt to drive private landlords out of the sector.

The MPs' criticisms includes how banning Section 21 evictions will lead to a surge of possessions cases before any likely deadline that will swap the courts and lengthen evictions.

They also say giving tenants easier access to the Tribunals system to challenge rent increases will also swamp that legal system.

'It is not clear whether the Government fully appreciates the extent to which an unreformed courts system could undermine its tenancy reforms,' the report says.

The Government has already rejected calls for a dedicated housing court to deal with this extra caseload, which MPs say is 'unsatisfactory', pointing out that landlords facing rent arrears and/or anti-social behaviour by tenants should be able to access fast justice to regain possession.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee's report on the Government's planned (see link at bottom) also warns that the proposed Decent Home Standard will be usher in any improvement in housing stock unless councils are given significant financial support to police it.

Precarious

'The precarious position of local government finances, the shortage of qualified housing and environmental health officers, and the lack of reliable data are all obstacles to effective enforcement,' it says.

But the committee has concerns that unscrupulous landlords will use a 'loophole' in the proposed measures, which allow landlords to evict tenants when needing to sell or move back into a property.

It therefore proposes:

  • An increase from six months to one year the period at the start of a tenancy during which the landlord may not use either ground;
  • increase from three months to six months the period following the use of either ground during which the landlord may not market or relet the property.

MPs have also called on student lets to be exempted from the reforms, which aim to end AST contracts and bring in open-ended 'periodic' tenancies, a change for this sector that would make it 'considerably less attractive to private landlords'.

'We warmly welcome much of today's report and thank the Committee for taking on board many of the arguments we have made,' says Chris Norris, Policy Director for the National Residential Landlords Association (pictured)

'The NRLA has never been against reform of the sector, but it has to be fair and workable for both tenants and landlords.

'That is why the Committee is right to call for court reform to underpin the ending of Section 21, changes in plans for student tenancies and ensuring cases of anti-social behaviour are prioritised by the courts.

'As the Committee rightly notes, the biggest challenge faced by many renters is that there are not enough homes to rent.

'All the protections in the world will mean nothing for tenants if the homes are not there in the first place. 

'That's why the Government should accept the Committee and the NRLA's call for a full review of the impact of recent tax changes in the sector.'

Read the report in full.

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