New government rental reform plans; to abolish section 21 and introduce lifetime deposits

Rental market reforms

The government has confirmed that it plans to abolish Section 21 and introduce lifetime deposits as part of its “revolutionary” Renters’ Reform Bill, a sweeping set of reforms for the private rented sector in England, which were outlined in the briefing notes to the Queen’s Speech, delivered on 19 December 2019.

The proposed reforms, which the government says “will restore fairness, honesty and transparency to the heart of the housing market”, include: 

  • Ending “no fault’ evictions by removing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, and reforming the grounds for possession.
  • Giving landlords more rights to regain possession of their property, as well as improving the court process for landlords to make it quicker and easier for them to get their property back sooner.
  • Introducing a new “lifetime deposit”, that moves with tenants from property to property, so that “tenants don’t need to save for a new deposit every time they move house”.
  • Widening the scope for entries on the rogue landlord and agent database, and providing tenants  with access to this information.

The government says the main benefits of the Renters’ Reform Bill would be:

  • Improving security for tenants in the rental sector by providing them with greater protection and empowering them to hold their landlords to account.
  • Strengthening the rights of landlords who need to gain possession of their property when they have a valid reason to do so.
  • Improving affordability for tenants when moving from one tenancy to the next.
  • Improving standards in rented accommodation, by driving out rogue agents and landlords and helping to professionalise the sector.

The proposed legislation would only apply in England, as housing policy is devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It’s not yet clear when the changes are expected to come into effect, but they will be informed by the three-month consultation on tenancy reform  that closed in October 2019.