Update on the Renters Reform Bill – Anti-Social Behaviour Powers for Landlords

Monday 17th April 2023

Over several years, there has been a drip feed of information about the proposed new Renters Reform Bill, so it’s worth a quick recap. 

Our previous stories on this topic can be found here.

If the Bill becomes law, it will involve a hefty overhaul of the law on residential tenancies and evictions, expected to include the following:

  • A ban on Section 21 evictions
  • A move away from fixed terms to a single system of periodic tenancies (tenants will only ever have to give two months’ notice to quit)
  • An extension of the Decent Homes Standard to private rentals
  • An entitlement for tenants to seek repayment of rent from the court if their homes are of an unacceptable standard
  • Landlords won’t be able to unreasonably refuse requests to have a pet, BUT they will be able to require pet insurance to cover damage to the property
  • Reform of grounds for possession for anti-social tenants
  • A possession ground for landlords who wish to sell
  • A new mandatory possession ground for repeated serious arrears (regardless of the arrears at the hearing

What’s new?

The latest update to hit the press at the end of March was a focus on the problem of anti-social tenants.  Here’s what we know:

The Government published the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/anti-social-behaviour-action-plan.

The Action Plan proposes to give landlords increased powers to evict tenants whose anti-social behaviour (ASB) is affecting neighbours. Trade bodies for landlords have been asking for this, especially due to the expected ban on Section 21 notices.  Landlords with anti-social tenants can be inundated with complaints from neighbours, who expect them to take action.

What are the current options for landlords?

There are currently legal grounds for possession if a tenant is causing nuisance or annoyance to neighbours, or using the property for illegal or immoral purposes.  However, proving this can be difficult. Also, court proceedings can be lengthy and costly, and the court does not have to give the landlord possession at the end of the process.  In short, the law for evicting anti-social tenants doesn’t work well for landlords.

As a result, landlords usually use the Section 21 route to eviction instead.  If Section 21 is abolished, ways to protect unhappy communities from noise and disorderly conduct will be more limited.  Even while the Section 21 route is still available to landlords, they must give two months’ notice, and the court process can take around six months.

How does the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan fit into the Renters Reform Bill?

Much of the Action Plan goes wider than housing law and relates to public places.  This will be actioned by the Police/local authorities.  However, there is also an intention to increase eviction powers for landlords as part of the Renters Reform Bill. The Action Plan claims:

“we will seek to halve the delay between a private landlord serving notice for ASB and eviction and broaden the disruptive and harmful activities that can lead to eviction”.   

The Action Plan mentions mediation to support landlords in certain types of ASB cases. It states that a two-week notice period for ASB will be introduced.  The existing notice period for tenants causing nuisance or annoyance is two weeks, so it is not clear what the difference will be.  Even if there is a short notice period, the case usually then must go through a slow court process. The Action Plan mentions working with the courts to prioritise possession cases based on ASB.  This may help ASB cases but could create a larger backlog for other cases, such as those based on rent arrears, leaving landlords owed significant sums with an even longer wait to evict.

Will the new powers work?

Unfortunately, there is no detail as to how the new powers will operate, so we can’t yet assess how realistic and workable they will be compared to what we have now.

Until the Renters Reform Bill becomes law, the current notices and procedures remain in place.

If you have any queries on taking possession of a rented property, please contact a member of our property disputes team.