Landlord policy is now a costly mess

·2 min read
Terrace houses in London
Terrace houses in London

The Government’s policy on the rental sector becomes less clear by the day. Included in Rishi Sunak’s proposed crackdown on anti-social behaviour is a plan to allow landlords to evict disruptive tenants at two weeks’ notice. Yet a Renters Reform Bill about to be published will include new protections for tenants, including bans on no-fault evictions and on landlords raising rent more than once a year.

Clearly, misbehaving tenants do not fall into the “no fault” category, but who is to decide the benchmark by which they can be removed at such short notice? The Government will make it easier for landlords to prove anti-social behaviour in court as “capable” of causing “nuisance or annoyance”. At present, landlords must prove that anti-social behaviour has already caused annoyance or nuisance.

Mr Sunak’s plan would also allow fast-track evictions of tenants who fall behind in their rent by two weeks, all of which landlords will no doubt welcome. But they are less sanguine about the ban on no-fault evictions devised by Michael Gove as part of the levelling up programme. Currently, Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 allows landlords to evict tenants without having to establish any fault, usually when they want to recover the property for themselves or to sell.

Proponents of reform say that tenants should not have to live under the constant threat of being kicked out and that they are reluctant to complain about decrepit surroundings for fear of the landlord taking against them.

But the legislation needs to recognise the rights of ownership, too, and not make it impossible for landlords to ask tenants to leave for legitimate reasons. The sector is already in a tumult, especially in London, with rents going through the roof. This would worsen if landlords pulled out entirely or were subject to exorbitant costs.

One way to achieve that would be to impose expensive “net zero” energy efficiency requirements such as heat pumps and solar panels on rentals, and yet this is what the Government is proposing. New rental properties will require an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of C or better by 2025 followed by all tenancies from 2028, even though there are questions over the accuracy of EPCs. At present just 40 per cent of rental homes meet the C rating. The cost will be passed on to tenants who may fall behind on their payments and face eviction. Are these policies joined up?