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Government Under Pressure To Move Rental Reforms Through Parliament

(Alamy)

4 min read

The Government is under increasing pressure to bring forward the Renters’ (Reform) Bill, which is set to ban no-fault evictions, after campaigners raised concerns that the legislation could be at risk of being dropped.

The Bill, which was given its first reading in May 2023, pledged to reform England's private rented sector. 

Its most controversial clause was to remove Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, which would prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant for no reason.

The first reading of Renters’ (Reform) Bill was laid out in Parliament on 17th May, but has yet to receive its second reading.  The FT reported the Bill had been held up in the Whips' office because of "vested interests".

PoliticsHome understands the Government is hoping the Bill will receive its second reading after parliamentary recess, but the timetable has yet to be confirmed. 

A Government spokesperson said it remains "absolutely committed" to delivering a fairer rented sector "for tenants and landlords through the Renters Reform Bill".

"The Bill which delivers our manifesto commitment is progressing through parliament and a second reading will follow shortly," they added.

A number of Conservative MPs have expressed concerns over the proposed legislation, particularly its pledge to abolish no-fault evictions. 

However, housing sector figures have urged the Government and Levelling-up Secretary Michael Gove to act and push on with the proposed Bill.

Osama Bhutta, Director of Campaigns at Shelter, told PoliticsHome he believed the Bill should be implemented, and claimed the legislation should not be held hostage “by a group of landlord backbenchers”.

“It is disgraceful that England’s 11 million private tenants are at the mercy of a broken rental system while politicians, many of whom are landlords themselves, fight it out over whether to make renting fairer and safer,” Bhutta said.

“The government cannot allow this Bill to be held hostage by a group of landlord backbenchers while so many renters continue to suffer.

“It’s pivotal it gets the Renters' (Reform) Bill over the line and keeps its promise to protect the millions of people who call private renting home.”

In April 2019, then prime minister Theresa May promised to reform the private rented sector. Boris Johnson, who succeeded her, backed the proposals and committed to making the market fairer. 

The Conservative Party also pledged in its 2019 election-winning manifesto to abolish no-fault evictions and reform the rental sector. 

The Renters’ Reform Bill would introduce an industry-wide ombudsman, ending fixed term tenancies and allowing tenants to keep pets.

Government figures suggest tenants being thrown out via Section 21 was around 23,600 in 2021. However, this figure remains lower than 2011 when no-fault evictions peaked at 37,690.

Labour councillor Jessica Lennox, Executive Member for Housing in Leeds City Council, told PoliticsHome councils such as Leeds were desperate to see the rental market reformed.

She said local authorities had seen Section 21 notices rise in recent years, and added they did not have the capacity to house people who had been evicted from their rental property.

“I think it's been kicked into the long grass [the Renters' Reform Bill]… it's set to be ditched and scrapped via inaction on it," Lennox added. 

“Either that, or they're going to rush it through as it is, without there being the relevant debate and scrutiny of what's in that bill.”

Lennox also claimed the Government and Gove had not consulted local authorities during the consultation process of the Renters’ Reform Bill.

The legislation is increasingly unpopular with many Conservative backbenchers. One former minister told PoliticsHome they were concerned the Bill would do nothing to increase housing supply because it could cause landlords to pull out of the rental sector in response to restrictions.

Another Conservative backbencher told PoliticsHome they believed the policy was dead and would be inevitably dropped by the Government.

Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet, who is a landlord, told PoliticsHome he believed Section 21 was a “toothless tiger” and was attempting to solve a “mischief that does not exist”.

"Just because you've got the right to exercise a Section 21 doesn't mean for a moment you use it," he added. 

“I know of no decent landlords who will use it [Section 21] just because they can.”

Mackinlay added that he believed the Government has not thought the legislation through. 

A spokesperson from the Levelling-up Department said the Renters (Reform) Bill would give tenants across the UK more security.

“Our landmark Renters (Reform) Bill currently going through Parliament will further protect renters and support good landlords,” they added.

“It will abolish section-21 ‘no fault’ evictions, giving tenants greater security in their homes, and creating a private rented sector that is fit for the twenty-first century.”

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