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Government outsourcing rental reforms Bill to landlord MPs, campaigners claim

Campaigners have accused the Government of outsourcing a Bill on rental reforms to its “landlord backbenchers” as it was reported that Conservative MPs are being consulted on watering down planned protections.

The Renters’ Reform Coalition said a long-promised ban on Section 21 no-fault evictions is now “even further into the long grass”.

The Renters (Reform) Bill is currently going through Parliament and the Government has pledged that it will abolish Section 21 evictions – a vow first made in 2019.

Last year, the Government said the abolition will not come in until reforms in the court system to ensure it is also a fair process for landlords.

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A series of draft amendments to the Bill, seen by the PA news agency, have been circulated among Conservative MPs who had expressed concerns about the legislation and wanted to increase rights for landlords.

The proposals include delaying the end of Section 21 evictions until the policy’s impact on the courts system has been assessed, and a requirement for tenants to live in a property for four months before leaving.

They also include a draft of a “despatch box commitment” to review selective licensing policies “with the explicit aim of reducing burdens on landlords”.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has insisted the Government is committed to banning no-fault evictions before an election (Lucy North/PA)
Housing Secretary Michael Gove has insisted the Government is committed to banning no-fault evictions before an election (Lucy North/PA)

Selective licensing regimes allow councils to require all private rented properties in a given area to be licensed before being let to tenants.

Tom Darling, campaign manager of the Renters’ Reform Coalition, said: “It is scandalous and farcical that the Government are now outsourcing the writing of the Renters (Reform) Bill to their landlord backbenchers. It reeks of desperation.

“They don’t want to be seen to have reneged on their promise to deliver a better deal for renters, but with the ban on Section 21 even further into the long grass, and the suggestion they are looking to ‘lower the burden on landlords’ to provide safe housing, England’s 11 million private renters will struggle to come to any other conclusion.”

Earlier this month, Housing Secretary Michael Gove insisted the Government is committed to banning no-fault evictions before the general election later this year.

Asked whether the practice will have ended by the time of a national vote, Mr Gove told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “We will have outlawed it and we will put the money into the courts in order to ensure that they can enforce it.”

Responding to the amendments, as first reported by the BBC on Wednesday, Labour accused the Government of “yet another betrayal of renters” and said it was “yet another example of Rishi Sunak’s weakness which means he always puts party before country”.

Shadow housing secretary Angela Rayner called for a statement on the matter to be made to Parliament, saying Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “must give cast-iron public assurances that he won’t give-in to vested interests on his backbenches and rip up his promises to renters”.

She said: “Having broken the justice system, the Tories are now using their own failure to break their promises to renters in the most underhand way. The Government must give a statement to Parliament today.”

Labour has pledged it will ban no-fault evictions “no ifs, no buts” if it wins the election.

A spokesman for the Department of 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.

“We continue to meet regularly with a range of groups, representing all those in the private rented sector.”

The National Residential Landlords Association said a system that is “fair and workable for tenants and responsible landlords” must be the priority.

Its chief executive Ben Beadle said: “This need not be a zero-sum game between the two.

“The NRLA has consistently campaigned for the Bill to balance the protections promised to tenants and the legitimate business needs of landlords to enable them to continue to provide rented homes.

“If the Government is considering amendments that would provide for assurances to landlords with a six-month minimum term and ensure confidence for all in the court process, then that balance would be struck.”