There are arguably some sound policy reasons behind the Bill. The level of homelessness in the UK is an issue which has to be addressed. And families need the confidence of knowing their homes are not at risk at the same time as trying to deal with the rapidly accelerating cost of living.
But the redesign of a property model which has been in place for over 30 years has to be incremental. The rapid pace of the proposed changes poses a significant risk to the UK property market in several respects, any one of which could easily defeat the objective of creating greater security for tenants.
The first is investor flight in the buy to let market. As well as the loss of Section 21 and the introduction of indefinite periodic tenancies, the new model will curb landlords’ ability to review rents in line with inflation. It will impose the more restrictive system of review under Section 13 of the Act instead (and raise the prospect of yet more litigation, this time in the form of a tenant’s challenge to the increase in the First-tier Tribunal). Investors are unlikely to be beating down the door to acquire portfolios of rental properties with compressed rental yields.
And investors may be deterred by a loss of flexibility in being able to deal with their asset including the certainty of being able to recover possession in the context of redevelopment or onward sale. It will be interesting to note lenders’ views on the effect of the proposals in terms of investment risk and the terms of commercial lending on PRS schemes.
That could then have a knock-on effect for developers of mixed-use and new generation residential developments (build to rent). If the demand for long leases of units within those developments falls away as a result of loss of investor confidence in the sector, then not only will those developments become less profitable, obtaining funding for them could become more difficult as well.
Lastly, there is the risk of existing PRS landlords making use of Section 21 while they still can and selling their properties while the property market remains at a high. There are already reports in the media of a 'get out now' philosophy beginning to gain traction. If it does, that could lead to a dramatic reduction in the number of properties on the market and drive up the cost of renting as a result (i.e. as the landlords who are left start to ‘price in’ the risks posed by the coming changes).