Will student landlords still face the Renters’ Reform Bill?

Steve Lumley·31 October 2022·5 min read
Will student landlords still face the Renters’ Reform Bill?

After several weeks of political turmoil, Michael Gove has returned to government as the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities secretary.

It was only in July that he was sacked by Boris Johnson, and he has now been reinstated by the new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.

However, this means that Mr Gove’s flagship policy for the housing sector, the Renters’ Reform Bill, could be back in play.

This means that student landlords need to be aware of the big changes that could be introduced.

Periodic tenancies being introduced

Perhaps the biggest change is for periodic tenancies being launched to replace assured shorthold tenancy agreements.

While an AST is the most common tenancy, the White Paper suggests that tenants will get greater security with a periodic contract.

This would mean that student landlords will not be able to offer a tenancy of less than 12 months - and the new law could see renters only giving two months’ notice, even from the day they move in.

It’s also likely that section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions would be shelved with the industry still not sure about what landlords will be able to do to take possession of their property.

‘Landlords can envisage operating without Section 21’

The chief executive of the National Residential Landlords’ Association, Ben Beadle, said: “Our survey data shows that landlords can envisage operating without Section 21 provided other proposals, such as on court reform and reformed grounds for possession, have their confidence.”

He added that the NRLA will work closely with Mr Gove to ensure that any reforms have the confidence of tenants and responsible landlords.

Propertymark’s head of policy and campaigns, Timothy Douglas, said: “The levelling up reforms to the private rented sector appears to be back as Michael Gove returns.”

He said that the Minister needs to tackle the rental supply crisis and bring about leasehold reform and stimulate supply in the housing sector.

‘The introduction of periodic tenancies will, undoubtedly, cause a problem’

The managing director of Accommodation for Students, Simon Thompson, said: “The Renters’ Reform Bill did cause a stir among landlords and the introduction of periodic tenancies will, undoubtedly, cause a problem for the vast majority of student landlords.

“We need to have an open and honest debate with the government when the White Paper is discussed, and all landlords need to make their feelings known before a law is introduced that will seriously affect how student landlords run their accommodation for tenants.”

Angry students in Glasgow have begun plastering windows and bus stops with posters stating ‘University of Glasgow does not welcome you’ over the lack of accommodation in the city. Many students are now apparently staying in hotels or sofa surfing because there is not enough accommodation available. The protesting students say the university has not done enough to help with higher student numbers and fewer private rental sector homes available.

But it’s not just in Scotland where students are struggling to find accommodation, the Northern Echo reports that university students in Durham have had to sleep overnight on the street to find accommodation. They say hundreds of students have been camping outside letting agents in a bid to secure student property that is being released for rent next September. One letting agent released all of its properties for the 2023/24 academic year and was deluged with applicants. The situation of students having to queue overnight is described as being ‘absolutely ludicrous’ by Mary Foy, the Durham MP.

A prediction from Housing Hand, the rental guarantor service, about there being a ‘tsunami of students’ who will struggle to find university accommodation this year has come to fruition. The firm’s Graham Hayward told FENews that while they predicted the accommodation shortfall, it has been more concentrated than they were anticipating. The firm says it has seen a big uptick in accepted student applicants and they are still managing to offer a quick turnaround service.

One council has revealed that it’s going to spend £5.5 million buying student flats in a bid to help the city’s housing crisis. Leicester council will buy two student blocks to house those who are waiting for accommodation. The council says it needs 786 new homes a year to meet a government target, but only delivers 146 per year on average.

In the same week, Leicester University has unveiled a new £150 million village for 1,200 students that is close to the city centre. The University says that an open-air car park and derelict accommodation blocks have been regenerated to create a modern student facility .