Changes put forward to the Renters Reform Bill to crack down on rogue landlords, protect vulnerable residents and improve the safety of homes for millions of tenants are being introduced today.
They appear to put flesh on the bones of some ideas floated more generally in the Bill.
The Government has tabled amendments to make it illegal for landlords and agents to have blanket bans on renting to people who receive benefits or who have children – saying this is ensuring families aren’t discriminated against when looking for a home to rent and protecting the most vulnerable.
Landlords will still be able to carry out referencing checks to make sure a tenancy is affordable and have the final say on who they let their property to. This will apply to England and Wales and will be extended to Scotland via a further amendment to the Renters Reform Bill at a later stage.
Alongside this, a Decent Homes Standard will be applied to the private rented sector for the first time.
The new standard will set a clear bar for what tenants should expect from their home ensuring it is safe, warm and decent. It will be set following further consultation and will help to meet the target of reducing non-decency in rented homes by 50 per cent by 2030.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove says: “Everyone deserves a home that is safe, warm and decent. But far too many live in conditions that fall well below what is acceptable. As part of our Long-Term Plan for Housing we are improving housing standards across the entire private rented sector, while also ending discrimination against vulnerable people and families who are being unfairly denied access to a home.”
Gove’s statement today adds that local authorities will be given new enforcement powers to require landlords to make properties decent, with fines up to £30,000 or a banning order in the worse cases. Tenants will also be able to claim up to 24 months rent back through rent repayment orders up from 12 previously.
Councils will also be given stronger powers to investigate landlords who rent substandard homes, providing them with the tools they need to identify and take enforcement action against the criminal minority and help drive them out of the sector.
The amendments will now be considered at Committee stage for the Bill in the House of Commons and are - in the government’s words - ”a vital next step in delivering a fairer system for both tenants and landlords. The changes will support the majority of good landlords by making existing rules clearer and more enforceable.”