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Landlords Threaten Exodus Over Renters Reform Bill as Lords Debate Its Future



Landlords accused of 'holding parliament hostage' with threats to sell properties, while the House of Lords is encouraged to 'save' the Renters Reform Bill

The Renters Reform Bill will be discussed in the House of Lords starting Wednesday, following the passage of a diluted version of the government's key bill by the MPs.

Political correspondent @fayebrownSky

Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 12:

Landlords are being criticized for allegedly using the threat of selling their properties as leverage to prevent the enhancement of tenants' rights.

A new dispute flared up just before the contentious Renters Reform Bill was scheduled for its second reading in the House of Lords, with a landlords' association cautioning about a potential shortage in the private rental market.

A study by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) examining government records revealed that nearly half of individuals seeking help to avoid homelessness in the latter half of 2023 did so due to landlords intending to sell their properties.

This figure was over double that of the second most frequent cause, where landlords intended to lease the property again.

In a separate report, Rightmove indicated that an additional 50,000 rental units are required to restore the availability of rental housing to the levels seen before the pandemic.

The National Residential Landlords Association emphasized that landlords require "assurance to remain in the market" and cautioned members of the House of Lords about trying to enhance the reform legislation to increase tenant protections, following the House of Commons' dilution of the bill.

According to reports, the information follows alerts from the advocacy organization Generation Rent, which has highlighted that a major factor contributing to homelessness is landlords exiting the rental market.

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Generation Rent has charged the NRLA with manipulatively exploiting their worries to coerce parliament into believing that even minor enhancements to tenants' rights would prompt them to sell their properties.

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Ben Twomey, the head of Generation Rent, stated: "In the long run, it doesn't really affect the housing market if landlords decide to sell their properties.

"Building materials like bricks and mortar don't descend into the earth, and the property could be purchased by a new landlord, someone buying their first home, or it could even be transformed for use as social housing."

"Landlords will invariably find reasons to sell their properties, whether it's due to retirement or the increasing expenses of their mortgages."

"Tenants Seek Assistance with Moving Costs"

Mr. Twomey expressed concern that "tenants are severely unprotected when landlords decide to sell their properties."

He urged government officials to promote policies that encourage the sale of homes to current renters who are financially capable of purchasing, or to facilitate the sale of occupied properties in a way that allows tenants to remain in their homes even under new ownership.

The advocacy group is urging for a measure that would prohibit landlords from selling a residence within two years of the lease's start date. Additionally, they propose a moving assistance program that would exempt tenants, who are evicted through no fault of their own, from paying the last two months' rent as they search for alternative housing.

Why are property owners deciding to sell?

The National Residential Landlords Association mentioned that several factors are prompting landlords to sell their properties, with rising expenses and doubts about the Renters Reform bill being the primary concerns.

The law, designed to adjust the balance of power between tenants and property owners, has faced significant delays and controversy. Critics have strongly condemned the government for weakening key aspects of its original plans, such as the prohibition of no-fault evictions.

Initially pledged by the Conservative Party half a decade earlier, the prohibition has been postponed for an undetermined period due to pending judicial reforms, a move that is largely perceived as a gesture of accommodation towards property owners.

Discover further: Close to a million tenants receive evictions without fault. Over 100 Members of Parliament make in excess of £10,000 annually from rental properties.

A representative from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLHC) stated that there is no indication that their Renters (Reform) Bill would cause landlords to exit the industry.

"Indeed, since 2004, the quantity of rental properties has increased twofold and has maintained a consistent level thereafter."

They also stated that the legislation "will create a more equitable rental market for landlords and tenants alike."

Colleagues called to save legislative changes

The Renters Reform Coalition, comprising groups like Generation Rent, criticized the bill for maintaining the fundamental power disparity that underlies the rental crisis in England. They urged members of the House of Lords to intervene and improve the legislation.

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The RCC is advocating for a series of reforms that encompass the abolition of no-fault evictions, an extension of the eviction notice period from two months to four, and the regulation of rent hikes during tenancy to reflect inflation or wage increases.

In addition to unstable rental agreements, tenants are grappling with escalating rental prices and substandard living conditions, all within the context of a broader housing shortage fundamentally driven by inadequate housing availability and skyrocketing costs.

Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, recognized the broader issues and stated that "every group needs to recognize the widespread demand for policies that increase the availability in the private rental market."

He elaborated, "The most significant issue confronting tenants is landlords exiting the market. The sole solution lies in bolstering the confidence of conscientious landlords to remain active and maintain ongoing leases."

As discussions on the Renters (Reform) Bill continue among members of the upper chamber, it's essential that the bill benefits both landlords and tenants equally. Currently, the bill appears to maintain this equilibrium. We urge members to endorse the Bill, providing the sector with a clear understanding of what to expect moving forward.

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