The Renters Reform Bill – Our hopes for improved mental health outcomes and tenant / landlord relationships 

Like many other organisations in the sector, we are really pleased to see the Government has finally published its Renters Reform Bill – some four years and thousands of no-fault evictions after it was first promised in 2019. For both renters and landlords alike, the changes mark the start of reforms that can create greater security of tenure, safer houses and better-quality homes for all. 

Despite the long delays and some watering-down of the original campaign asks, the Bill finally puts an end to Section 21 evictions which have put many thousands of renters into a form of perpetual housing insecurity, never knowing if they could suddenly receive a notice to leave a place they have made their home for no other reason than the landlord’s discretion. 

No-fault evictions have been a particular source of anxiety for private renters, especially for renters in London where rents have risen 13 consecutive times since the Bill was first proposed in 2019 and where average rents are higher than they have ever been, at around £2500.  

In addition to the scrapping of Section 21, the reforms include the introduction of rolling periodic tenancies (meaning the contracts will roll on month by month without needed to renew it); longer notice periods for rent increases; and greater rights around pets in homes.  

The Bill says that “any attempts to evict tenants through unjustifiable rent increases are unacceptable”, providing some additional reassurance around rent hikes despite the Bill not including any provision around rent regulation and caps – another key objective of campaigners and housing organisations across the sector. The lack of legislation or devolved powers to address the runaway costs of renting is a major barrier to fostering a sector that works for renters and landlords alike. 

Anxiety, health and Section 21 

The vast majority – over 90% – of the renters referred to us via the Southwark Private Renters Project are experiencing stress, anxiety and sometimes depression due to their housing circumstances. Many are facing the real prospect of homelessness and do everything right to try to avoid that, but face an expensive, competitive market on little earnings and often a lot of additional needs – for example, they may be managing a chronic health condition, dealing with past experiences of abuse or addiction, have experienced a loss of someone close (maybe someone who they depended on for housing), or face language barriers or discrimination. All are low income, meaning budgets are extremely tight – usually calculated to the month with little give in the case of an emergency, like an eviction.  

We know from studies that an eviction can impact a person in ways that are psychologically similar to bereavement, in the ways it acts through stress pathways. It can also trigger depressive symptoms and things like higher blood pressure. Renters living under the threat of eviction – as many renters are – report worse health outcomes, both physically and mentally. 

Maria Morgan, Kineara’s Director, responded to the new Bill with these comments:  

A home should be a place where a person feels secure, safe, warm, and not at risk. However, for various reasons this basic human right is being challenged; through policies, economic structures, and wider societal challenges. We must not forget that in the midst of all these intersections are people who are having to navigate multiple complex housing systems.  

The Renters Reform paper is a good start to addressing the challenges that currently exist between landlords and tenants. My hope is the reform will be a policy that is consistently reviewed, evaluated, and impact is measured for increased improvement. 

It’s time for both tenants and landlords to be heard and regarded with empathy, openness, and with the ambition of ensuring good housing for all.

Given how important a stable home is to everyone’s health, we look at the changes proposed in this Bill with some hope that steps are finally being taken to protect the health and wellbeing of renters. We also look forward to working with landlords, continuing to deliver secure housing to those who need it.