Gove urged to act over ‘damaging’ delay to rental reform

Landlords have warned that delays to rental reforms are “damaging and destabilising” for tenants and the sector as a whole, amid fears the Government is deprioritising measures that would prevent homelessness.

In a joint letter sent to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and the charity Crisis raised doubts over the future of the “vital” Renters (Reform) Bill, which was expected to abolish so-called “no-fault” Section 21 evictions.

The legislation, which the letter describes as “the biggest set of changes to the private rented sector for over 30 years”, reached the report stage of its passage through Parliament in November last year but is yet to be allocated a date for further consideration.

In the meantime, there has been speculation that the Government is reconsidering its approach and may water down protections for tenants which could prevent homelessness.

Spring weather Mar 1st 2024
Changes in the Renters (Reform) Bill would protect tenants from homelessness, campaigners say (Cillian Sherlock/PA)

Landlords can currently apply for an accelerated possession order if their tenants have not left by the date specified in the Section 21 notice.

The latest figures show repossessions after no-fault eviction orders in England increased by 49% last year to 9,457, up from 6,339 in 2022.

The Government has said the abolition of Section 21 would not come in until reforms in the court system to ensure it is also a fair process for landlords.

Responding to the repossession figures in February, Mr Gove insisted the Government would ban no-fault evictions this year.

However, the NRLA and Crisis have joined other campaigners in warning that “time is running out” for the Bill to be adequately scrutinised.

The letter said: “Over recent weeks a number of media reports have suggested that the Government is considering amendments to the Bill.

“The rumour, speculation and a litany of off-the record briefings are causing a huge amount of concern and uncertainty for tenants and responsible landlords.

“We therefore call on the Government to publish, as a matter of urgency and in full, any amendments it might now be considering so that all parties can judge for themselves what is on the table and debate the substance in public. Time is running out to ensure that this Bill can complete its passage through Parliament with the proper consideration it deserves.

“The lack of progress and uncertainty about the future is destabilising and damaging for those living and working in the private-rented sector. This has to end.”

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have accused the Government of stalling on crucial reforms, which were promised in 2019, and leaving tenants vulnerable to homelessness.

Laying out the impact of delays to reforms, NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle told the PA news agency: “The confusion and uncertainty about the future of the Bill is hurting the rental market and leading many responsible landlords to hold back investment in new homes to rent.

“Landlords, and tenants, need confidence about what the future will look like so they can plan accordingly. That’s why the Government needs to publish whatever changes it is considering and ensure the Bill can make swift progress through Parliament.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Our landmark Renters Reform Bill is passing through Parliament and will deliver a fairer private rented sector for both tenants and landlords.

“We continue to meet regularly with a range of groups representing all those in the private rented sector and engage on our reforms.”