Renters’ Reform Bill: Leaked letter leads to accusation of ‘disgraceful betrayal’

A letter to Conservative MPs from communities minister, Jacob Young, was leaked last Wednesday and led to accusations over the Easter weekend that the government is significantly watering down some of the main provisions of its proposed Renters’ Reform Bill.

One national newspaper described the possible changes as a ‘disgraceful betrayal’.

Having already undergone a protracted gestation the bill now looks like it might not immediately end Section 21 ‘no-fault evictions’,  but it will now prevent tenants ending a rental contract within its first six-month period, allow landlords to evict students to ensure tenants move out at the end of the academic year, and give tenants who are evicted under new possession grounds a right to homelessness support from their local council.

The reason for the doubt about the ban on Section 21 notices (that can lead to a no-fault eviction) is that there is recognition that the courts are unlikely to be able to cope with the volume of alternative eviction procedures that may follow such a ban. A proposed amendment, noted in the Young letter, is that the Lord Chancellor will need to publish an asessment on the ‘readiness’ of the Courts before such a ban was enacted. Campaigners are likely to see such a provision as effectively kicking a Section 21 ban into the long grass.

Earlier last month Jacob Young told parliament, “We are absolutely committed to the abolition of section 21. I am personally committed to that and we will bring back the bill as soon as we’re able to.”

A group of around 50 Conservative MPs (many of whom are also private landlords) have said that planned protections for tenants will be too hard on landlords and has been campaigning to delay and amend the Renters’ Reform Bill. They have said that the changes will lead to landlords selling up and a reduced supply of rental properties. Jacob Young said in the letter that he had listended to their concerns and would bring forward changes to the proposals.

The Renters’ Reform Coalition, representing tenant groups, accused the government of ‘selling renters down the river’. Shelter was reported as saying that the ‘lock-in’ for the first six months of a new tenancy could, “trap renters in hellish conditions”.

Tom Darling, the campaign manager at the coalition, was reported as saying: “Renters will be hoping to see significant changes to the bill in the House of Lords. Otherwise, this legislation will hardly be an improvement on the status quo, and in some case it will make things worse.”

Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said, “The government has a mandate to end section 21 repossessions. Our focus has been on ensuring that the replacement system works, and is fair, to both tenants and responsible landlords. The changes being proposed would achieve this balance.”

The Guardian pulled no punches in its condemnation of the possible amendments to the Bill. “Rishi Sunak’s government had the chance to claim renters’ rights as a legacy. Instead, it has chosen cowardly deferral.” The opinion piece also said:

“This capitulation to landlords, dressed up as a reasonable compromise, is in reality a disgraceful betrayal. The renters reform bill has cross-party support. Ministers would have had no difficulty getting it through the House of Commons with the evictions ban intact – even if some of their own MPs, including a group involved in lobbying to water down the bill who are themselves landlords, had rebelled. Polling shows that the public recognises the severity of Britain’s housing affordability crisis, and particularly its impact on younger people’s lives. Putting the interests of landlords before those of renters is a political choice.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities maintains that the Bill will deliver a fairer private rented sector for tenants and landlords and by abolishing Section 21 will give people more security of tenure. The trailed amendments to the bill are likely to be brought forward at the Report stage of the parliamentary process in the coming weeks.

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6 Comments

  1. Highstreetblues

    This just (yet again) proves that the left have no idea about the industry.

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    1. BillyTheFish

      Mate, are you seriously saying the right has ‘an idea’ about housing? Have you seen the mess on both sides of the market or do you live in a palace somewhere?
      Biggest laugh of the week lol
      I think it’s safe to say politicians generally don’t know much about whatever thing they are in charge of. How could someone running a group of EG farming businesses one week suddenly know how to run a group of property businesses the next? & how can we expect someone to do this in such a way it benefits the owners and employees when the politician has a vested interest in that industry?
      The system is the real issue here, not fit for purpose

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    2. MS1975

      Incredible comment with no context or explanation, pathetically trying to detract from the systemic failures across the whole of housing by the current government. Keep fooling yourself

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    3. Liz14

      Our local estate agent has just reported in The Telegraph that landlords are leaving in their droves and no new landlords are arriving. Under this new Rental Reform Bill if all tenants must be treated as homeless when evicted I can foresee many will just stop paying rent because they will now be eligible to be housed by the council. Even those with a Country Court Judgement for ani social behaviour will be entitled. I forsee a nightmare situation for all local authorities and homelessness becoming more and more of an epidemic. Our estate agent also predicted that if s21 is introduced more and more landlords will be selling up. In practise, landlords are being forced to sell so that a wealthier family can buy the tenants home. Our local authority and our MP have legislated in Parliament re. holiday lets introducing s24 for holiday lets which will force many local families into poverty. They also want to ban landlords from converting to holiday lets. Landlords here in Cornwall converted to holiday lets because of EPC’s as many of our Cornish cottages could never reach an E let alone a C
      without spending in excess of £40,000 plus.

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  2. LRC10

    The blind leading the blind

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  3. Ian Narbeth

    The Renters Reform Bill has been grossly mishandled by Gove and his department. It was an utterly foolish thing to promise to abolish section 21 evictions in all circumstances.

    It was beyond foolish to propose that all tenancies be periodic from the start. That would lead to landlords having no security of income and tenants (or holidaymakers who wanted a “summer’s lease”) giving notice to leave the day after signing. Lenders would not like it and landlords would doubtless object to their agents taking 12% of the first year’s rent out of 2 months’ income.

    Section 21 is the only practical tool to deal with antisocial behaviour. The pipsqueak amendment to include behaviours “capable of causing” instead of “likely to cause” nuisance or annoyance is useless for two reasons. First, by the time the case gets to court there is usually actual nuisance or annoyance and second, victims of ASB are too frightened to give evidence, even more so if they have to wait months for a court date with a very real risk of the case being postponed. The problem is even more acute in HMOs where the victim is living under the same roof as the antisocial offender. The consultation on the Bill gave no thought to HMOs of which there are about 500,000 in the UK.

    If s21 is so bad, was it always thus? No. The Housing Act 1988 and section 21 opened up a stultified housing market where landlords could be stuck with tenants for decades (I declare an interest: my parents had to wait nearly 26 years to recover possession of a house the selling agent said the tenants were about to leave!) However, having made a monumentally stupid promise, Gove must keep it and accept the bad consequences. If the Tories pass the Renters Reform Bill, Labour will leave it alone. If the Bill is not passed, expect Labour to embellish it and make it even worse for landlords. It will also be worse for tenants but nobody is listening to the warnings.

    Jacob Young talks about “fairness” to landlords. Until the broken court system is fixed so that involuntary creditors (AKA landlords) can obtain possession from a non-paying tenant in weeks not months, landlords will continue to leave the market. In the news today the Minister is reported as meeting with Royal Mail bosses because people are fined £5 for bar-coded stamps being wrongly flagged as counterfeit. When a landlord loses £5000 to a scallywag tenant who plays the rigged system, no Minister is interested.

    One final point, which needs to be publicised. As part of its “fairness” agenda, the Government will allow tenants owing thousands or tens of thousands of pounds to defeat a section 8 claim if the tenancy deposit has not been protected or the prescribed information given properly. That sends the landlord back to start his claim again. This is worse than it is now.

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