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Government Has Scaled Back The Renters' Reform Bill

Ministers appear to have delayed their own plans to ban no-fault evictions

4 min read

Ministers have delayed their own plans to ban no-fault evictions, as the landmark Renters' Reform Bill has been watered down.

The pledge to abolish Section 21 no-fault evictions is a cornerstone of Michael Gove's landmark legislation to reform the private rental sector, but has been met with fierce backlash from some Conservative backbenchers and landlords.

A letter from levelling up minister Jacob Young sent to Tory MPs on Thursday, first reported byThe Sunlays out a series of amendments that the government will bring forward to the legislation when parliament returns from Easter recess in April. 

Among them is a plan for there to be an assessment on “readiness of the courts” before section 21 will be abolished for existing tenancies. It is believed that serious court backlogs could hold up landlords wishing to evict troublesome tenants. 

The Bill in its current form allows for tenants to end a tenancy with two-months notice at any point, however a new amendment will mean that this cannot happen within the first six months of a tenancy. 

In the letter, Young wrote that he knows some MPs and constituents have been “concerned about aspects” of the reforms. He said that is why changes have been made to “bolster landlord protections”. 

"Tenant and landlord groups have a common desire to see us deliver this bill as quickly as possible to end uncertainty for the sector – which is why I am pleased to confirm the Bill will be returning to the Commons after Easter recess," he continued. 

In February, PoliticsHome reported on draft amendments that could have seen tenants effectively locked into contracts for six months. PoliticsHome reported earlier on Thursday that ministers met with lobbyists for landlords and estate agents twice as often as they did with groups representing renters while they were working on the legislation. 

According to analysis of public records of ministerial meetings, in the two years leading up to September 2023 ministers at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), including the secretary of state Michael Gove, met industry bodies representing landlords 23 times, an average of almost once a month. They met with groups representing private renters on 11 occasions.

Of the 23 meetings held with landlord industry bodies, the highest number (16) were with the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA). The NRLA has staunchly opposed several measures in the Renters’ Reform Bill, also including new energy efficiency standards and rent controls, warning that regulation of the private rented sector would lead to an exodus of landlords and reduce the number of available homes.

Labour’s shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook said Gove and Rishi Sunak have chosen to “put the interests of party management ahead of what is right for the British people”.

“After years of delay, private renters have every right to be furious at the watering down of the vital protections the Tories promised them,” he said.  

“Only Labour will immediately abolish section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and deliver the security and rights that renters deserve.” 

Tom Darling, the campaign manager at the Renters’ Reform Coalition, accused Government of “selling renters down the river”.

In a statement posted on social media, he added: “The Government’s flagship legislation to help renters is fast becoming a Landlords’ charter”. 

A spokesperson at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: "Our landmark Renters (Reform) Bill will deliver a fairer private rented sector for both tenants and landlords. It will abolish section 21 evictions - giving people more security in their homes and empowering them to challenge poor practices.

“The Bill must strike the balance between delivering security for tenants and fairness for landlords. We have listened to feedback from landlord and tenant groups and from MPs, and will bring amendments forward at Commons Report Stage after Easter recess.”

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