Michael Gove kicks ban on section 21 eviction notices back again as renters reform law returns

23 October 2023, 10:12 | Updated: 23 October 2023, 13:59

South London Housing Gentrification
South London Housing Gentrification. Picture: Getty
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Michael Gove has kicked a long-promised ban on section 21 eviction notices back again as the renters reform law returns to the Commons today.

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Ministers promised in the 2019 Tory manifesto to abolish so-called "no fault" evictions" in a bid to protect renters, and give them extra rights.

The new laws, which will give renters the right to request pets, and to help them report dodgy landlords more easily, was then backed by Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and now Rishi Sunak.

But earlier this month the Levelling Up Secretary wrote to MPs about changes to the new laws in a bid to appease Tory MPs - which critics fear will delay it even further.

He promised that ministers will "reform the courts before we abolish section 21".

But LBC understands there will be no amendment to the law coming forward today.

A letter from Michael Gove to MPs promising court reform before pushing ahead with banning section 21 eviction notices
A letter from Michael Gove to MPs promising court reform before pushing ahead with banning section 21 eviction notices. Picture: A letter from Michael Gove to MPs promising court reform before pushing ahead with banning section 21 eviction notices

The ban on section 21 eviction notices - which allow landlords to boot out tenants without an explanation - won't come into effect until a number of new conditions are met.

The letter, seen by LBC, says that digitising the court process, hiring more bailiffs, giving tenants better legal advice, and prioritising anti-social behaviours cases should come first.

Mr Gove said: "Implementation of reforms in the Bill won't proceed until further improvements are in place and HMCTS is fully prepared for these changes."

Labour's Matthew Pennycook has said: "this could take years".

Deputy Labour leader, Angela Rayner, accused the Tories of doing a "grubby deal with the Tory backbenches" and had "betrayed renters".

She told LBC of our revelations: "The Conservatives’ long-promised ban on no fault evictions has majority and cross-party support across the House, but this flip-flop kicks it into the long grass.

“Having broken the justice system, they are now using their own failure to indefinitely delay keeping their promises to renters in the most underhand way.

“The government plans to act as judge and jury in deciding when the courts have been sufficiently improved, meaning their manifesto pledge will likely not be met before the next election.

“This comes at a heavy price for renters who have been let down for too long already."

The Labour-chaired Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee, Clive Betts recommended that the abolition of Section 21 evictions should be phased - which ministers have agreed to do.

But City Hall say even a further delay of six months to the passing of the Bill into law would mean 15,000 more Londoners risk facing no-fault eviction.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, this morning warned the Levelling Up Secretary against kicking it back.

He said: “It is inexcusable that four years after the Government vowed to ban no-fault evictions, so little progress has been made. Ministers must act swiftly to strengthen and pass the Renters Reform Bill to ensure that renters get the legal protections they desperately need and deserve.”

Ben Twomey, Chief Executive of Generation Rent, told LBC this morning: "It's immensely frustrating.

"Section 21 evictions are the leading cause of homelessness.

"It's just our top priority to get this abolished as soon as possible, it was promised four and half years ago."

Downing Street said this morning of the news: "We said from the start implementation will be phased.

"The bill will deliver on the government's manifesto commitment... it's right the courts are ready... it's essential tenants and landlords have swift and effective access to justice outcomes."

The bill will also be changed to allow students to have yearly contracts for accommodation while studying.

But the wording of the changes has not yet been revealed.

Calum MacInnes, Chair of SAPRS (Student Accredited Private Rental Sector) said: "Anything less than parity with the purpose-built student accommodation sector could lead to a collapse in availability of student housing. We urgently call on the government to come around the table and find a solution.”

It comes amid rumblings from Tory MPs about the impact of the renters reform bill - some of whom say it is "unconservative" and could even make the rental crisis even worse.

Conservative Party Conference 2023
Conservative Party Conference 2023. Picture: Getty

Tory MP Marco Longhi told LBC he could vote down the bill today if it comes to one.

Reports have suggested a rebellion of up to 40 MPs - but with Labour supporting it, it is still likely to pass.

He said: "The consequences of this well-meaning legislation is a reduction in supply as landlords continue to leave the market.

"Where will these tenants go at a time of huge demand? This is an inflationary measure that will make things worse for tenants."

A government spokesman said: “The Renters Reform Bill delivers on our manifesto commitment to create a fairer private rented sector for both tenants and landlords. 

"It will abolish no-fault evictions – giving people more security in their homes and to challenge poor practices. It will also give more protections for landlords to repossess properties where tenants are antisocial, alongside creating a new Ombudsman to help resolve issues more quickly.

"We are progressing the Bill through Parliament with a second reading, so we can create a private rented sector that is fit for the 21st century."

Liberal Democrat Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson, Helen Morgan MP said:

“In the midst of a cost of living crisis, after years of rents spiralling out of control, this Conservative government has sat on its hands time and again leaving renters without the protections that they deserve.

“It is not right that those thwarting this legislation do not have to make clear why they have such a keen personal interest in stopping it becoming law.

“Any MP who has ever used a section 21 notice needs to make that clear to the House and to the public. It would frankly be insulting to all those affected by the delay of this important piece of legislation to not know the true motivations of why so many Conservative MPs oppose the ban.”