English housing reform will require delicate balance of rights

Out-Law News | 20 Dec 2019 | 1:44 pm | 1 min. read

Proposals to reform the English housing and private rental markets will require careful balance if they are to protect consumers without discouraging much-needed investment, an expert has warned.

The government set out its plans for housing reform, including a Renters' Reform Bill, in documents published alongside the Queen's Speech (151-page / 474KB PDF) to mark the state opening of parliament. Proposals in the bill include abolishing 'no fault' evictions and overhauling the grounds for possession in section 8 of the 1988 Housing Act; as well as the introduction of a 'lifetime deposit' which will transfer with tenants as they move home.

Further housing reform measures included in the briefing note are a new 'first homes' scheme, offering discounts of at least 30% to local people on the purchase of their first home; refreshed affordable homes and shared ownership schemes; planning policy reform; and a new £10 billion Single Housing Infrastructure fund to support the necessary infrastructure needed to deliver new homes. The government will also take forward proposals to "end unfair practices" in the leasehold market.

Harris Natalie

Natalie Harris

Partner

The government needs to consider how measures interact so they promote consumer rights as well as ensuring continued investment into UK housing.

Housing expert Natalie Harris of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "The rental reform and housing proposals will be well received by many, but the government needs to consider how measures interact so they promote consumer rights as well as ensuring continued investment into UK housing".

"This is a difficult balance to strike but it will be critical to safeguarding rights and promoting a level playing field," she said.

"Abolishing 'no fault' evictions and bolstering tenant rights for lease extensions are both laudable proposals but this must be coupled with judicial reforms that support landlords when grappling with problem tenants. As it stands, under-resourced courts are not able to appropriately handle such cases, leaving landlords with very limited scope to quickly remove difficult tenants who may be disturbing other residents," she said.

The government has also announced a new Building Safety Bill, which will be used to take forward the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt's independent review of building regulations and fire safety.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that the announcements "will empower both home-buyers and renters".