For private student renters in the UK, the new bill will be more than a little controversial.
The new renters reform bill has been announced and for many private tenants across the UK, this has been welcome news, due to a few fundamental changes such as landlords no longer being allowed to refuse pets without a good reason.
However, when it comes to students, many people have flagged that the government have failed to acknowledge the impact of the proposal on them.
Most students will live in halls or private student accommodation in their first year and move on to private renting for the rest of their time at uni. This will mean renting from a landlord or letting agency, and facing the same rules that other private renters face.
While there are plenty of good things in the bill, which will give tenants more rights and security in their homes, for students who don’t plan on living in their houses long-term, the proposal has been controversial.
How is the renters reform bill good for students?
One of the biggest proposals in the renters reform bill is the abolition of Section 21 evictions. Currently, in the UK, landlords can serve a Section 21 eviction notice to their tenants without having to give a reason as to why. This means that tenants who demand better living conditions from their landlords could be evicted if the landlord doesn’t want to deal with them, or tenants can face an unexpected eviction without a valid reason as to why it’s happening.
The abolition of Section 21 notices can mean that renters will feel more secure in their homes without risk of eviction, without a valid reason to be doing so. Tenants can also feel confident in reaching out persistently to their landlords if the living conditions are not safe, or are not being looked at without risk of eviction for being a “difficult” tenant.
What are the disadvantages of the renters reform bill for students?
However, the new bill has been controversial when it comes to students renting in the private sector due to the fact that it will remove fixed-term tenancies.
Under the new bill, most existing tenancies and all new tenancies will be shifted to periodic rolling tenancies, rather than fixed-term tenancies.
A periodic or rolling tenancy is when a tenancy continues each month with no specified end date until either the landlord or the tenants choose to end the tenancy.
Landlords can also easily increase the rent during periodic tenancies, whereas during a fixed tenancy they must wait until the end of the fixed period to request a rent increase.
A fixed-term tenancy, however, is when a tenancy length is agreed upon before the tenancy agreement is signed. This is often an initial 6 or 12 months, and once the fixed period is up, most tenancies will either end and the tenants will move out, or it will either turn into a periodic tenancy or the tenants will need to sign another fixed tenancy for a set period of time—unless the landlord states otherwise.
The new bill will remove fixed-term tenancies, except for purpose-built student accommodation and housing. So, halls and private halls exclusively for students will not be impacted. However, for second and third-year students who are renting privately, this will have a big impact.
Why are rolling tenancies bad for students?
Students will now need to give two months’ notice before they want to move out of a property instead of leaving by default at the end of the academic year. If they hand in their notice in May or April to have vacated by summer, the landlord won’t be able to find new tenants for their property until then. Most students start searching for their student house for the next academic year months in advance, which would no longer be possible to do.
This could also mean students having to find a student house during exam times, which is already a super stressful time of year. If students aren’t leaving their accommodation until much later in the year, it can mean even more competition when it comes to other students trying to secure somewhere to live for the next academic year.
It could also mean second-year students staying in their house for longer than a year, or over the summer, which could be a good thing.
However, with a joint rolling tenancy if one person chooses to end the tenancy everyone has to leave. So, if one of your housemates wants to move home for the summer and then live somewhere else next year, you would all have to agree to end the tenancy.
This could be a huge problem for intentional or postgraduate students who want to work over the summer, living with undergraduate or final-year students who want to move home.
Landlords will also be less likely to want to rent to final-year students who are part way through their final year, knowing they won’t be staying for a full year, and may opt for long-term (non-student) tenants instead, reducing the amount of student housing available.
What’s happening with the bill?
Despite this controversy, the renters reform bill has a lot of good proposals that will improve housing and give private tenants more rights. Some good examples are banning landlords from increasing the rent more than once per year and ensuring tenants have adequate notice of any rent changes and time to move out if they choose to, as well as no Section 21 evictions and the fact you can have pets while privately renting.
The bill is in the early stages of discussion in the House of Commons and has not yet reached the House of Lords so, it may be some time before anything is implemented and there’s still room for change to happen.