United Kingdom

Has cabinet chaos killed the Renters’ Reform Bill?

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Boris Johnson’s resignation and a Conservative Party leadership contest mean that the future of rental reform is in question again. 

After the publication of the A Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper last month, the government’s long-delayed rental reform agenda finally looked to be on track. That all ended when, following a wave of ministerial resignations, Boris Johnson stood down as leader of the Conservative Party on 7 July. He remains prime minister for now, but the party foresees having a new leader in place by 5 September.

With many cabinet posts suddenly empty, the prime minister appointed Greg Clark to lead the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), replacing Michael Gove. Marcus Jones became the new housing minister, making him the 12th person to take the post since 2010. Following the reshuffle, only one of the four MPs currently serving in the DLUHC was in place when the White Paper was released in June. 

Pro-rental reform activist groups quickly began lobbying the new ministers to keep the rental reform momentum going. Generation Rent called on Greg Clark to press ahead with the Renters’ Reform Bill.

Meanwhile, housing industry groups called for more stability at the top, and warned that continued uncertainty over rental reform could damage the sector. Some industry figures also speculated that without Gove driving the rental reform agenda, it could stall – although a spokesperson at the department has said that the incoming team is committed to continuing with the existing agenda, including rental reform.

But immediate answers are hard to come by. Boris Johnson reportedly won’t try to implement any major reforms during his caretaker period. Other senior Conservatives will likely focus on the leadership contest, after which yet another cabinet reshuffle is likely. The government’s pledge to produce a Renters’ Reform Bill by the end of the parliamentary session next year may well not be met.

However, the Renters’ Reform Bill has been Conservative Party policy since before Boris Johnson’s stint at the top, and is likely to outlive his leadership. It was first announced under Theresa May’s government in 2019, and while it has been repeatedly delayed, has appeared in three of the last four Queen’s Speeches and enjoys considerable cross-party support. Private rented sector reform is probably still a case of when, not if, but property professionals will be paying close attention to the results of the Conservative leadership race.

Other housing policy news

Social Housing Regulation Bill: 10 key changes for the sector – Inside Housing

No 10 considers 50-year mortgages that could pass down generations – The Guardian

Huge expansion of HMO licensing proposed by Birmingham council – Letting Agent Today

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