Ministers accused of making 'major concessions to landlords' after renters reforms 'watered down'

28 March 2024, 15:48

Michael Gove has been urged to 'get on with' passing the rental reforms
Michael Gove has been urged to 'get on with' passing the rental reforms. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Campaigners have accused the government of "making major concessions to landlord groups" after a leaked letter showed plans for tenants' protections were watered down.

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The Renters Reform Coalition (RRC) said that the rental reforms planned by the government were becoming a "landlords' charter".

The government announced plans to end the so-called no-fault evictions nearly five years ago.

But it was not until 2023 that the Renters (Reform) Bill made it to the House of Commons, amid a series of delays.

Ben Beadle, from the National Residential Landlords Associatio.n told LBC News he wanted the government to press on with the reforms.

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Mr Beadle said: "My message to Michael Gove is clear. Crack on, bring it back to Parliament, get it to report stage, get it through, stop messing around".

He added: "We think it's a bill that could work, both for renters and responsible landlords, No more delays, please get on with it."

Earlier this month, communities minister Jacob Young told Parliament when asked about progress of the Bill: "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."

The leaked letter from Mr Young says that the Bill will return to the Commons for report stage when Parliament comes back after the Easter break.

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It notes "concerns from colleagues about the smooth operation of the new tenancy system for both landlords and tenants".

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

On Section 21, the letter states that an amendment will be brought forward requiring "the Lord Chancellor to publish an assessment on barriers to possession and the readiness of the courts in advance of abolishing section 21 for existing tenancies".

Tom Darling, RRC campaign manager, said the Government was "selling renters down the river with concessions that will prevent the vast majority of renters from seeing the end of Section 21 before the next election, as we'd been promised".

Michael Gove
Michael Gove. Picture: Alamy

He added: "The Government's flagship legislation to help renters is fast becoming a landlords' charter - watch as landlord groups today declare victory now, having exacted a significant toll on this policy in exchange for their support.

"The Bill needs to come back to Parliament as soon as possible and 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 cases it will make things worse."

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said the "rumour, speculation and off-the-record briefings about the future of the Bill has caused a huge amount of concern and uncertainty for tenants and responsible landlords".

He added: "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.

"Ministers now need to crack on to ensure the Bill can proceed with the scrutiny it deserves.

Campaigners rally outside British parliament in support of Renters (Reform) Bill last year
Campaigners rally outside British parliament in support of Renters (Reform) Bill last year. Picture: Alamy

"The lack of progress and uncertainty about the future is destabilising and damaging for those living and working in the private-rented sector. It is time to bring this to an end."

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said it was "cowardly that the Government would rather betray renters than stand up to a minority of MPs hell-bent on browbeating them into watering down" the Bill.

She said "only a watertight Bill will curb the unfairness that's hardwired into England's rigged renting system".

Labour's shadow housing minister, Matthew Pennycook, accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Housing Secretary Michael Gove of having "chosen once again to put the interests of party management ahead of what is right for the British people".

Vowing Labour would "immediately abolish section 21 'no-fault' evictions and deliver the security and rights that renters deserve", he said: "After years of delay, private renters have every right to be furious at the watering down of the vital protections the Tories promised them."

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been contacted for comment.