In this issue we update you with news on the Renters Reform Bill
UPDATE 25th May – BBC News | Renters Reform Bill: Warning changes could ‘decimate’ student market – www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65681015
UPDATE 24th May – “Michael Gove backtracks on renter reforms after just a week.” Government considers bill amendment to prevent damage to landlords of student lets. At the moment we don’t know that this is the case or what student landlords will be exempted from. Further reading here – www.property118.com/michael-gove-backtracks-on-student-let-reforms
The Government has finally announced the arrival of the long-trialled Renters Reform Bill. It is not an exaggeration to state that this is the biggest change in housing law in 35 years since the introduction of the Housing Act 1988. This will impact all sections of the private rented sector but there will be a particular effect on student landlords.
However, we believe that landlords using our premium service, where we lease the property direct from the owner will be shielded from much of these changes. We include more details below and will be updating landlords further over the coming weeks and months as the law takes shape.
The key changes are:
The end of Section 21 is the big news, and the removal of no-fault evictions is the real headline grabber.
For student landlords, this is largely irrelevant as most students don’t want, or need, long term security in the property. Most students actually want a tenancy that better matches the dates of their course which usually means a tenancy of around 35-40 weeks. However, for other tenants, the end of no-fault eviction will be significant. Landlords will need to rely on a Section 8 notice which is being toughened up and expanded with additional grounds and to allow for anti-social behaviour and issues such as continued poor payment of rent.
No Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)
This is by far, the most radical part of the bill and of real relevance for student landlords. The Bill removes the concept of ASTs altogether so in future all tenancies will be periodic. Rental periods will be restricted so that they can only be 28 days or one month. Anything else will be prohibited. If a landlord attempts to create a fixed term tenancy or seeks to serve a notice to quit, then they can be fined by the local authority under the proposed new rules.
No Fixed term tenancies
There is to be no fixed terms for tenancies at all. Tenants will be able to give two months’ notice to leave a property at any time, although this same notice period will not apply to landlords. Effectively they could move in and give notice the same day.
This, coupled with the end of fixed term tenancies will have the greatest impact on student landlords. Tenants will be able to leave with just 2 months’ notice, so for a student landlord, this is likely to mean that the standard 48/51-week income model is at serious risk. An additional problem is that the traditional student cycle, where student tenancies all start and stop at a certain point in the year will be gone. Landlords will not be able to guarantee that the property will be available for the new academic term, and it will most likely mean that student tenancies are rolling throughout the year, much like a standard family type let.
Decent and Safe Homes standard
The initial bill has nothing covering the Decent and Safe Homes standard although the Government has stated that this will be in the Act. Expect to see this appear as the Act continues through Parliament.
The bill will introduce a new landlord portal, where landlords will need to register their property with all compliance documents. There will also be a new Landlord Ombudsman that landlords will have to register with, and tenants will be able to complain to the ombudsman in the event of a dispute.
Other changes include new requirements to not unreasonably refuse pets, and a blanket ban on refusing to take tenants on benefits or those with children.
What does it mean for student landlords?
Sulets does not believe that landlords have much to worry about with regards the end of Section 21 as in our experience, it is almost never needed with student tenants. We don’t believe that decent landlords need worry about the decent and safe homes standard and the ban on refusing tenants with child or those on benefits will have no practical implications for most of the student housing market.
The big issue is the end of fixed term tenancies and the ability for tenants to give 2 months’ notice at any point. This will cause significant disruption to the normal operation of the market. It should be noted that these changes do not apply to the large purpose-built student accommodation providers, they only apply to small landlords which appears to be a significant attack on the sector.
The bill will now make its way through Parliament. We expect the bill to pass into law in the first half of 2024 and come into force in late in 2024. This will likely mean that for the 2024-25 letting cycle starting in October, the new law will be in force.
How can Sulets help?
Currently Sulets operates two landlord services; a regular Fully Managed (FM) service which uses a standard AST and a Head Tenancy lease, where we rent the property direct from the owner and sub rent to students. We also have a small number of landlords using our legacy Let Only (LO) service.
Whilst the FM and LO, AST service will be impacted by the rule changes, we believe that our leased offer will operate in the same way as it currently does which will shield our landlords from much of the proposed bill.
As the bill moves through Parliament we will report on its progress and will be contacting our landlords separately once the situation becomes clearer.