Boris Johnson accused of betraying private renters after shelving pledge to end no-fault evictions

Theresa May attacked landlords’ power as ‘wrong’ and vowed to act – but issue has been left out of Queen’s Speech

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 14 October 2019 20:42 BST
The crown arrives at the Palace of Westminster by carriage ahead of Queen's 65th speech

Boris Johnson has been accused of betraying private renters after shelving Theresa May’s promise to end the misery of ‘no-fault evictions’.

The absence of a housing bill from the Queen’s Speech has cast doubt on a raft of measures pledged by the last prime minister – also including help for leaseholders and a regulator to enforce new homes of a higher standard.

Most importantly, Ms May had promised the biggest overhaul for renters in a generation, to prevent private landlords evicting tenants with as little as eight weeks’ notice and without good reason.

“Millions of responsible tenants could still be uprooted by their landlord with little notice, and often little justification,” she said in April, shortly before leaving No 10, adding: “This is wrong.”

But Mr Johnson has said nothing about the issue since succeeding her and the crackdown was fiercely opposed by landlords – before being left out of a Queen’s Speech with no fewer than 26 bills.

“Eleven million renters will be bitterly disappointed if the government fails to keep its promise to end ‘no fault’ evictions,” said Polly Neate, chief executive of the campaign group Shelter.

“It’s frustrating to see the housing emergency missing from the government’s agenda in the face of the current crisis. With more than 300,000 people homeless and millions fighting for a stable home, this is not something it can ignore.”

And John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “Renters have been let down again by the Conservatives.

“The truth is Tory ministers can’t fix the housing crisis because they won’t take on the vested interests who profit from the status quo.”

Asked to respond, the ministry of housing, communities and local government was unable to say the measure would ever go ahead.

Instead, a spokesperson said: “We remain committed to delivering a package of tenancy reforms which balances greater security for tenants whilst ensuring landlords have the tools they need to operate with confidence.

“We are carefully considering the responses received to our recent public consultation on this issue, which closed on 12 October, and will publish our response and next steps in due course.”

The group Generation Rent also criticised the threat to abolishing Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act, after 57,000 people backed its ‘End Unfair Evictions’ campaign.

Dan Wilson, its director, said: “The Queen’s Speech contained nothing to make renting more tolerable for England’s private renters, who right now can lose their home with no reason and only two months’ notice.

“Renters are growing older and starting families with no prospect of escaping into home ownership or council housing, and are voting in greater numbers. Dropping tenancy reform now would be a costly mistake for the government.”

The change would still leave landlords able to use the Section 8 procedure, but only to evict a tenant in rent arrears, involved in criminal or antisocial behaviour or who has a rent agreement, perhaps by damaging the property.

However, crucially, unlike with the use of Section 21, tenants can challenge Section 8 evictions in court.

Nevertheless, David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, warned landlords would pull back from letting properties, saying: “For all the talk of greater security for tenants, that will be nothing if the homes to rent are not there in the first place.”

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