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Renters’ Reform Bill could drive landlords from the sector, warns North East property expert

Ben Quaintrell, founder of estate agency group My Property Box

North East property expert Ben Quaintrell has raised concerns over the much-delayed Renters’ Reform Bill – warning it may drive a considerable number of landlords from the sector while failing to deliver any marked improvement in tenants’ rights.

He says the draft legislation, due to be unveiled in Parliament today (Wednesday 17th May) by Michael Gove, Secretary for State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, could yet dodge crucial questions around affordability and what constitutes an ‘unfair’ rent.

First announced in 2019, “the biggest shake-up of the private rented sector in 30 years”, was outlined in the Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper released last June.

This included scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, outlawing blanket bans on families with children or those on benefits, moving all tenants to a periodic tenancy system which will end assured and assured shorthold tenancies, doubling rent increase notice periods from one to two months and enabling tenants to challenge ‘unjustified’ increases.

Ben Quaintrell, founder and managing director of estate agency group My Property Box which operates across the North East and North Yorkshire, said: “There were many worthy ambitions contained in the White Paper and all reputable landlords are keen to increase standards and drive the minority of rogue landlords from the industry. However, everything hinges on whether it has been properly thought through and can be implemented in a fair and equitable manner.”

He fears that the draft bill will unjustly penalise those landlords already delivering high standards while strengthening the ability of unscrupulous tenants to avoid paying rent or delay the eviction process for issues such as anti-social behaviour.

“It is vital the draft bill is fair to both tenants and landlords who already must comply with a host of legal obligations. The danger is that some landlords will simply decide they have had enough and quit at a time when there is already not enough rental property to meet demand – making the current situation far worse. Sadly, any costs involved in additional red tape are likely to be passed onto tenants.

“Meanwhile, despite improving tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rents, the White Paper has failed to define what constitutes an unfair rent.”

He also supported the conclusions of the cross party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, which found the ban on ‘no fault’ evictions would be undermined by delays in the court system.

The government has implied that Section 21 evictions will be replaced with wider use of Section 8 notices, enabling landlords to repossess their properties in certain circumstances although this is widely accepted to be a more expensive and lengthy process.

In addition, proposals to introduce a legally binding Decent Homes Standard is likely to be blunted by a potential failure of local councils to enforce it, due to a lack of funding, shortage of qualified staff, and lack of reliable data.

Ben added: “I’m unsure whether some of the proposals are practical in the real world. For example, under the proposals a tenant can sign up to a tenancy and then give two months’ notice to quit on the day they move in, which is especially damaging for those landlords with student lets who could be left with an empty property for at least a term or possibly a whole academic year.”