The residential property world has entered 2020 anticipating a busy year in terms of legal reform. Here are some likely headlines:

Introducing the Renters’ Reform Bill (England only)

This was introduced in the Queen’s speech on the 19 December 2019 and sets out the government’s commitments so far. The purpose of the bill is to introduce a package of reforms to deliver a fairer and more effective rental market. The main elements of the bill include:

  • The end of section 21 (“no fault”) evictions under the Housing Act 1988;
  • Improving the court process for landlords to make it quicker and easier to regain possession;
  • A promise to develop and expand the database of rogue landlords and property agents, providing wider access to the database to tenants;
  • Introducing a new lifetime deposit that can be transferred when moving from one tenancy to the next.

Ending unfair practices in the leasehold market

In the Queen’s speech the government reiterated its promise to ban the sale of leasehold houses by ensuring that if a home can be sold as freehold, then it will be. It likewise promised to get rid of unnecessary ground rents on new leases and to enhance the rights of homeowners to challenge unfair charges.

It also pledged to take forward programmes of reform as part of the Law Commission’s residential projects aimed at improving the position of leaseholders of both flats and houses. Click here for our Law-Now on the Law Commission’s 2017 Programme of Law Reform.

During 2018/2019 the Law Commission consulted on wholesale reforms across three other key residential projects.

  • Enfranchisement: The Commission’s highly anticipated report on amendments to the valuation methodology to calculate premiums was expected before Christmas but was postponed due to the general election. It is now anticipated that a full report on all proposed reforms to the existing enfranchisement regime will be published in February 2020.
  • Commonhold: the existing regime has never taken off. The Commission’s report is due in February 2020 and promises extensive changes in a bid to reinvigorate the concept of commonhold. It is hoped that proposals will persuade existing leaseholders to convert to commonhold and encourage developers to develop commonhold properties in place of leasehold.
  • Right to Manage: The Commission’s report is also expected to be published in February and promises to simplify the existing legislation under the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, amending the existing criteria which is considered too restrictive.

Time will tell if and when the anticipated reforms will hit the statute books during the course of this year.