Renters' Reform Bill: Your guide to the new Private Renters' Ombudsman
A new Private Renters' Ombudsman in England aims to offer "fair, impartial, and binding resolutions" to tenants and landlords.
The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper has disclosed details on a new Private Renters' Ombudsman, which will help landlords and tenants settle disputes quickly, at low cost, and without going to court. The ombudsman will be included in the Renters' Reform Bill, expected to be introduced "this parliamentary session".
You can download a full overview of the proposals in our e-book, Renters' Reform Bill: Your guide to the "A Fairer Private Rented Sector" white paper.
What is an ombudsman?
Ombudsmen or redress schemes are set up to help protect consumer rights. They aim to provide "fair, impartial, and binding resolutions" without needing to advance the problem to court.
Using an ombudsman should therefore be faster, cheaper and easier than going through the court system.
Why is the new ombudsman being introduced?
Currently, there is a redress scheme for agents to help settle disputes with tenants, but no similar scheme for landlords. This means that if a tenant has a complaint, their agent may be reliant on remedying that complaint on behalf of a landlord that does not want to engage.
It will be mandatory for landlords with an agent to join the scheme. This will give tenants access to redress services in any situation, while landlords will be more accountable for their own conduct and responsibilities, rather than the agent.
How will this redress scheme work?
The ombudsman will be a streamlined service for both landlords and tenants to use. The service will aim to "tackle the root cause of problems, address systemic issues, provide feedback and education to members and consumers, and offer support for vulnerable consumers."
The government has also promised to identify ways to link this database with the proposed property portal, to help streamline the process further.
How will the ombudsman help tenants?
Tenants will be able to seek redress for free if they have a complaint about their tenancy. Legitimate complaints could be around their landlord's behaviour, property standards, or repairs that haven't been completed within a "reasonable" timeframe, for example.
The ombudsman will be given powers to "put things right" for the tenant, such as "compelling landlords to issue an apology, provide information, take remedial action, and/or pay compensation of up to £25,000."
Landlords also may be required to reimburse rents, if the property doesn't meet the right standard.
What penalties could landlords face if they don't comply with the ombudsman's decision?
If landlords don't comply with the ombudsman's decision - especially for repeat or serious offenders - they may be liable for a Banning Order. The ombudsman's decision may also be enforced through the courts, if the landlords' compliance becomes "a concern".
Please note this is intended as a guide only and is not exhaustive. Read more on the recommendations at gov.uk.