Government unveils 'once-in-a-generation' renting shake-up - including ban on 'no-fault' evictions

Plans to scrap "no-fault" evictions in England have been unveiled as part of a long-awaited overhaul of the private rental sector.

The Renters' (Reform) Bill was published on Wednesday - three-and-a-half years after the government was elected with a manifesto promise to stop the practice.

No-fault - or Section 21 - evictions allow landlords to take back possession from tenants without giving a reason.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said this was allowing rogue landlords to intimidate tenants into staying silent about disrepair and "no one should be faced with eviction for speaking out".

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However, critics say there is nothing in the bill to stop landlords effectively forcing people out by hiking up rents, which have reached a new record high across Britain.

There is also concern that new powers which make it easier for landlords to evict anti-social tenants, with reduced notice periods for "irresponsible" renters, will be used as a cover to evict people.

Speaking from Teddington after visiting a renter who had been threatened with eviction, Mr Gove said a new ombudsman will be set up to oversee dispute resolutions, including whether rent rises are unfair.

Asked what the bar will be for anti-social behaviour, he said: "The courts decide what anti-social behaviour is. We are not talking about being disagreeable, we are talking about a sustained pattern of behaviour that makes life a misery for your neighbours."

As well as ending no-fault evictions, the bill will seek to give people the legal right to request having a pet in their home. Landlords will have to consider these requests, and won't be able to unreasonably refuse.

The plans will impact 11 million tenants and two million landlords in England, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

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Other measures in the bill include plans to make it illegal for landlords and agents to impose blanket bans on benefits claimants or families with children.

It will also apply home quality standards to the private sector for the first time.

Mr Gove insisted standards would not be reduced for asylum seeker accommodation, after safety concerns were raised over plans to remove landlord licensing requirements in order to move people out of hotels and into private housing.

Former prime minister Theresa May first promised to ban no-fault evictions in April 2019 while the Conservatives' manifesto in December 2019 included a commitment to abolish Section 21 no-fault evictions.

The DLUHC has previously said it would introduce the Decent Homes Standard to the sector which will make sure privately rented homes are "safe and decent".

It added that under it, "providers of social housing must take action if hazardous levels of damp and mould are found in properties".

Some campaigners have described the bill as a "once-in-a-generation" announcement - although there are warnings some property owners will still find ways to skirt the laws, such as by using large rent hikes to force unwanted tenants out.

Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: "Abolishing [no-fault evictions] will take away much of the stress of renting and improve communication and trust between tenants and landlords."

But Siobhan Donnachie, spokeswoman for the London Renters Union, branded the bill "long overdue" and said "inflation-busting rent" will mean renters will still feel insecure.

She warned: "For the many families struggling with housing costs at the moment, a 20% rent hike is simply a no-fault eviction under a different name.

"If the government is serious about bringing renters security in our homes, it must recognise how insecure renters feel speaking out against unsafe housing or planning for the future with the threat of inflation-busting rent increases hanging over our heads."

Battersea Cats and Dogs Home believes the proposed law will significantly reduce the number of animals being "needlessly separated from owners" - and could allow millions of renters to enjoy pet ownership in the future.

And Owen Sharp, chief executive of Dogs Trust, said the reforms are a "potential gamechanger" for responsible dog owners who rent.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow housing secretary, said Labour would go further, with plans to introduce "a four-month notice period for landlords, a national register of landlords, and a host of new rights for tenants - including the right to make alterations to your home, to request speedy repairs, and to have pets".