Our most frequent questions and answers on our plans to improve renting, how it can be done and why we’re calling for these changes
The private rented sector has doubled in size in the last 20 years, but regulation has failed to keep pace. Once a stop off for young people on their journey to homeownership, the insecure and expensive private sector is now home to 11 million people who may never leave. The lack of regulation for such a swelling sector is unacceptable and reform is needed urgently.
- Renters are forced to put up with poor housing conditions, insecurity and even discrimination, and this has a devastating impact on their health and wellbeing.
- In 2019, seven in ten private renters had experienced one or more serious problems with conditions in their home.
- 45% of renters have been victims of illegal behaviour by their landlord or agent
- No fault evictions leave renters in insecure conditions, and 39% of renters are left stressed and anxious because of their housing situation.
We often get asked questions on social media about plans to improve renting, how it can be done, and why we’re calling for these policy changes. Here are the most frequent things we’re asked.
1. Why is the Renters’ Reform Bill so important and why do we want it now?
It has now been three years since the government announced that they would introduce a Renters’ Reform Bill. Since then, the pandemic has slowed these plans while also sharply highlighting the precarious situation of people in insecure, poor and unaffordable housing situations.
State interventions such as the eviction ban were important but short-lived measures that were unable to address persisting structural issues. We need comprehensive and radical reforms to ensure that people have access to secure homes, that landlords and letting agents are held accountable for their practices and that the rights of all tenants are enforced.
The Renters’ Reform Bill is not an impossible or dream ask. The government has already promised it, and other countries such as Scotland and Wales are leading the way. Now the only thing left is to get on with it and make it happen.
2. How about DSS Discrimination? I still see it everywhere.
DSS discrimination, an outdated term for discrimination against people who receive benefits, is an unacceptable practice that locks tenants out of the private renting sector. Our work with mortgage lenders and insurers over the past three and half years means that landlords no longer have any excuse to refuse to rent to people receiving benefits.
Our three court victories have also proven that DSS discrimination is an unlawful practice that has a disproportionate impact on women and disabled people. Despite these important wins we know that there’s still work to do to ensure that these rulings are enforced.
With the right policies, the Renters’ Reform Bill can act as a necessary springboard that leads to the end of DSS discrimination. We need a bold vision for the private rented sector in the long term. The government needs to deliver on its previous promise to professionalise letting agents and ultimately create a regulator to oversee the private renting sector.
Our DSS campaign is also working to enforce the law and make sure that no one is prevented from securing a house in the private renting sector because of the type of income they receive. Find out more about our campaign.
Frustratingly we know that benefit discrimination still effects too many people. If you’re receiving housing benefit or universal credit and landlords and agents use this reason to refuse to let you view or rent a property that you can afford, you can find out how to challenge it here.
3. What about letting agents? Landlords are treated badly by them too
Just as we know that not all landlords have bad practices, we also know that some landlords may be unknowingly following poor advice and guidance given by letting agents. We believe that the Renters’ Reform Bill should cover the entirety of the private rented sector, including ensuring that letting agents are properly regulated and held to account.
The regulation of letting agents is an opportunity to ensure that standards are created and maintained within the sector and that letting agents’ practices are professionalised and improved.
4. What will these policies mean for landlords – will it push them out of the private rented sector?
Beyond protecting renters’ rights, the Renters’ Reform Bill will also equip landlords with the necessary information they need about their role and responsibilities. Landlords will feel more confident in maintaining standards that are applied to all. Currently, the absence of a clear and consistent framework means that landlords do not keep to an established standard and are not held to account for their practices.
As seen in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic, the national landlord register can act as a useful communication tool that local authorities use to keep landlords up to date with their responsibilities. Landlords themselves agree that a stronger framework and regulations is needed, with four in ten (40%) believing that the current requirements for landlords to maintain and improve their properties are not as strict as they could be.
While we can’t predict the choices and actions of individual landlords, we can look to the experience of countries like Scotland, where the abolition of no fault evictions in 2017 did not trigger a mass exodus of landlords from the sector.
5. What if a landlord needs the house back?
Abolishing Section 21 does not erase landlords’ rights to reclaim their homes for legitimate reasons. As part of the government’s announcement to reform renting, they also promised to give landlords more rights to gain possession of their property where there’s legitimate cause.
Reforms to legislation such as Section 8 will provide clearer and more explicit grounds for landlords to serve eviction notices, however it’s essential that it doesn’t become a covert way of reintroducing no fault evictions and undermine renters’ tenure security.
6. Why do we need to scrap Section 21? It’s the landlord’s house so they have the right to evict anyone they like, don’t they?
Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, which mean a renter can be evicted at any time outside of a fixed term for no reason whatsoever, forces renters into a state of precarity. Everyone should have the right to a secure home, whether they own that home or are renting it from someone else.
However, Section 21 diminishes this security by tipping power into the hands of landlords who can use the law against tenants unfairly. This creates a culture where tenants are afraid to raise concerns about housing conditions or any other issues they may be facing because of the fear of retaliatory evictions.
And this fear is justified. According to Citizens Advice, private renters who made a formal complaint to their local authority or redress scheme had a 46% chance of being served with an eviction notice within six months. We also know that the loss of a private rented tenancy is a leading cause of homelessness, with a particularly debilitating impact on families with young children.
Landlords shouldn’t be able to evict tenants without just cause and outside of established channels. We need to establish a fairer relationship between tenants and landlords where both rights and responsibilities are understood. It’s the landlord’s house, but a tenant’s home. This idea is too often forgotten.
7. If you have a landlord register, why isn’t there a tenant register?
There is currently a massive imbalance of power that exists between landlords and tenants. Landlords have access to a significant amount of information about tenants before they move in including references, credit checks, guarantors, deposits and other information they deem necessary to ensure they have a suitable tenant. Tenants, by contrast, are given little resources to make informed decisions about where they’ll choose to make their home.
Additionally, there are too many people in the private renting sector experiencing poor conditions and behaviour. They may not know their rights or be too afraid to exercise them because of problematic policies like Section 21. Currently landlords have responsibilities to tenants that are not clearly established and enforced. A landlord register can begin to address this lack of accountability.
8. Why don’t you campaign for rent control?
Renting is too expensive for too many, and we think that there should be limits to in-tenancy rent increases so that people can be confident about what their rent will be when they live somewhere. However, the government have said explicitly that rent control will not feature in the Renters’ Reform Bill.
While we believe that private renting should become more affordable, our first priority is to ensure that promises to make renting more secure are actually delivered. Getting rid of Section 21 can clear the way for renters to challenge unfair rent hikes and negotiate existing ones without the fear of retaliation. Additionally, securing a national landlord register now could lead to a more expansive tool that also records rent data.
We know that the Renters’ Reform Bill won’t resolve the affordability crisis, but the first hurdle we can at least overcome is the crisis of tenure security. We do have other tools at our disposal however, and are also calling for housing benefit for private renters to always cover the bottom 30% of rents (30th percentile) or more in local areas.
9. When is the Renters’ Reform Bill going to make renting better for us?
As soon as the government bring forward the bill! We need people to join the movement and ensure that the Renters’ Reform Bill is delivered and has the right policies that will genuinely reform the private sector. The millions of people who rent in England should not have to wait any longer for a fairer, safer and more secure system. Join us in getting the Bill brought forward and radically improving the private renting sector once and for all.