Tenants in private rented accommodation in England will be given a wide range of new protections from unscrupulous landlords, under long-awaited plans unveiled by housing secretary Michael Gove.

A white paper published on Thursday outlines measures designed to give greater power to tenants in the private sector.

Chief among them is a ban on section 21 notices, which landlords can currently use to kick out tenants without needing to provide a reason.

Almost one in 10 of the private renters who moved in 2019 and 2020 did so after being asked to leave by their landlord, and ministers have pledged for years to outlaw so-called no-fault evictions.

The government’s decision is a “game-changer for England’s 11mn private renters,” said Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter. “For the first time in a long time, tenants will be able to stand up to bad behaviour instead of living in fear.”

Research conducted by the charity suggests that as many as three-quarters of all private renters in England have suffered from poor or dangerous conditions in their homes in the last year, with issues including mould and electrical hazards.

“For too long many private renters have been at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who fail to repair homes and let families live in damp, unsafe and cold properties, with the threat of unfair ‘no fault’ evictions orders hanging over them,” said Gove, who described the measures as a “new deal for renters”. 

As well as scrapping no-fault evictions, the white paper proposes banning landlords from imposing arbitrary rent reviews or blocking families with children or benefits recipients from renting their properties. The notice period for rent increases will be doubled.

Other measures include a registration scheme for landlords and the creation of an ombudsman to settle disputes.

Ministers are also drafting plans which will give tenants the right to request pets in any property, which landlords “cannot unreasonably refuse”.

The measures announced in the white paper are eventually set to become law in a Renters’ Reform Bill promised in the Queen’s Speech in May.

As well as beefing up protections for tenants, Gove must “retain the confidence of responsible landlords”, said Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association.

“The eventual legislation needs to recognise that government actions have led to a shortage of supply in the sector at a time of record demand. It is causing landlords to leave the sector and driving up rents when people can least afford it,” he warned.

Alicia Kennedy, director of renters’ charity Generation Rent, said the legislation “has the potential to improve the lives of millions throughout England” but lamented the delay in implementation since a 2019 consultation first prompted the idea.

“It has been more than three years since the government first committed to getting rid of section 21 evictions. Thousands of tenants have lost their homes on their landlord’s say-so in that time and many more will live with uncertainty until this legislation is passed,” she said.

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