What is the Renter’s Reform Bill? Everything you need to know as campaigners slam Tory ‘failure’

The government has been accused of bowing to a group of ‘pro-landlord MPs’

Albert Toth
Wednesday 24 April 2024 09:46 BST
The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill returns to Commons today
The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill returns to Commons today (PA)

The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill returns to Commons on Wednesday as MPs consider new amendments to the housing legislation ahead of a crucial final vote.

First introduced in 2023, the bill aims to bring in measures that protect renters’ rights in the housing market. Since its inception, the scrapping of Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices has been central to the legislation.

This is the controversial power that allows landlords to evict tenants from their properties at two months’ notice without needing to give any reason. Former prime minister Theresa May first announced the Conservatives’ intention to abolish Section 21 notices in April 2019.

Recent research by YouGov commissioned by homelessness charity Shelter showed 943,000 tenants had been served Section 21 notices in this time, equivalent to more than 500 renters per day.

Half-a-decade later and the bill is ready for MPs – but not without a few changes along the way. Ahead of a final vote, MPs are given the opportunity to make amendments to a bill which will now be considered in the report stage.

Several of the amendments that are likely to pass were recently leaked in a letter to from housing minister Jacob Young. The MP writes that the changes are designed to ‘bolster landlord protections’.

Reports show that, of the 48 backbench MPs backing several controversial amendments, 36 are either landlords or have received funding linked to landlords. The government has been accused of conceding to much to these “pro-landlord Conservative MPs”.

Responding to the amendments, Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association has called for “swift passage” of the bill.

He said: “Tenants should rightly be empowered to hold rogue and criminal landlords to account to root out the minority who bring the sector into disrepute. However, it is vital that the majority of responsible landlords have confidence in the Bill to provide the homes for rent the country needs.

“The amendments proposed by the Government strike that balance.”

Ahead of the amendment debate, the Renters’ Reform Coalition (RRC) have said the changes will render the bill a ‘failure’. Co-signed by 20 leading housing charities and campaign groups, the letter criticises ministers for meeting with landlords twice as often as their own groups.

Housing secretary Michael Gove has insisted Section 21 notices will be ‘outlawed’ before the next general election
Housing secretary Michael Gove has insisted Section 21 notices will be ‘outlawed’ before the next general election (PA Wire)

“This legislation is intended to give the impression of improving conditions for renters, but in fact it preserves the central power imbalance at the root of why renting in England is in crisis,” the letter says.

For many, the ban on Section 21 notices is the central point of the Renters Reform bill. The proposed amendments will now effectively put the ban on hold for the foreseeable future.

The crucial amendment, tabled by housing secretary Michael Gove, calls for an assessment of the county court possession system before the ban can be implemented. This is to ensure the system is ‘ready’ for the change, according to his deputy Mr Young.

Although Mr Gove gave his assurances in an interview with the BBC that Section 21 notices would be ‘outlawed’ by the next general election, no time frame is given for the court assessment.

He told the broadcaster: “My determination is to ensure that we get this bill on the statute book. But it’s up to the Lords to decide the rate of progress that we can make.

“If opposition parties are supportive – and I believe that while they have some quibbles, they are supportive of the essential principle that we’re bringing forward – then we can have Section 21 ended before the general election. That’s the aim.”

Labour said the no-fault eviction ban promised in the Tory manifesto is “collapsing under the weight of vested interests” and called for the plan to be implemented immediately.

Responding to the criticism, Mr Young said: “The Renters Reform Bill will deliver our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 no-fault evictions and ensure a fairer private rented sector for both tenants and landlords.

“These are the biggest changes to the sector in 30 years – and we will continue to work across the sector to ensure the Bill passes into law as soon as possible.”

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