The Renters Reform Bill has just had its second reading in Parliament on 23 October 2023. If passed this will be the biggest change to the private rented sector since 1988.
There has been a big increase in the size of the private rented sector. 20 % of all households in England and Wales now rent privately. The 2011 census figures showed that 13 % of all households in the London Borough of Bromley rent privately. By 2021 this had grown to 17%. This compares to 30 % of all households in London.
The House of Commons Library reports 30% of all households in the old Beckenham parliamentary constituency renting privately in the 2021 census. This was a growth of 34 % since the census in 2011. The 2011 census reported that in the Copers Cope ward 61% of households lived in flats. In Lewisham West and Penge, the same Library reported 30 % of all households renting privately.
At the next general election, there will be a new parliamentary constituency of Beckenham and Penge. This will be made up of the following wards:
- Beckenham Town and Copers Cope
- Shortlands and Park Langley
- West Wickham
- Kelsey and Eden Park
- Penge and Cator
- Clock House
- Crystal Palace and Annerley
The total number of electors in the new constituency will be 76,000. As private tenants make up 30% of all households, their votes will be important at the forthcoming general election. They will need to make sure that they register to vote by contacting Bromley Council’s electoral services.
What does the bill do?
- Abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and replace assured shorthold tenancies with periodic assured tenancies.
- Introduce a wider range of possession grounds and make it easier for private landlords to repossess properties in cases of anti-social behaviour, rent arrears and other issues.
- Introduce an independent rent tribunal for tenants to appeal excessively above-market rents.
- Create a Private Rented Sector Ombudsman, which will be mandatory for private landlords to join and an accompanying Privately Rented Property Portal, which aims to help landlords understand their legal obligations and demonstrate compliance.
- Gives private tenants the right to request a pet in the property which the landlord cannot unreasonably refuse.
Matthew Pennycook MP on behalf of Labour gave critical support to the bill at the second reading. Labour supported the abolition of section 21, the pet proposals, the landlord portal, and the ombudsman.
Labour was concerned about the detail of the new mandatory grounds for possession and will press the Government as the bill progresses through Parliament.
The bill did not contain proposals that were previously in the Government’s white paper on the private rented sector. The Government has dropped the idea of increasing energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector. This will mean higher energy bills for private tenants. Any private tenant in Bromley who wants free advice about energy bills should contact the South East London Community Energy Company.
The bill makes no mention of the previous Government promise to introduce the decent homes standard for private tenants. Nor does the bill address the rent controls that the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wishes to introduce.
Above all, Labour was concerned that the Government intended not to abolish section 21 evictions until reforms in the court process had taken place. This could take several years. to complete. As the Government promised to reform this housing sector in its election manifesto of 2019, the court procedures should have been improved by now.
The second reading of the bill has been delayed as there has been a debate between the Government and its backbenchers over the Bill. Private tenants living in Beckenham and Penge who want to improve the bill should link up with the renters reform bill coalition.