The government has announced that the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill will take place on Monday 23 October, paving the way for the biggest shakeup of private rented sector rules in decades.
This will be the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill. Rental reform has reportedly been a controversial topic within the Conservative Party. However, any proposals for amendments will have to wait until the committee stage, which typically takes place a couple of weeks later.
Additionally, the government will have to pass a “carry-over motion” to carry the Bill’s progress over into the next parliamentary session, as the King’s Speech on 7 November would otherwise reset the progress it has made so far.
What more do we know about rental reform after the Tory conference?
The private rented sector was barely discussed at the Conservative Party conference earlier this month, and didn’t feature in the speech of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove.
However, housing minister Rachel Maclean confirmed that one reform long requested by the industry will not go ahead: at a fringe event on the housing sector, she said that the government will not set up dedicated courts for housing cases to reduce the backlog of cases, arguing that landlords’ concerns would be eased by the new mandatory grounds for eviction under Section 8, which would be adjudicated in the existing court system.
Does this mean that the Renters (Reform) Bill will become law?
The challenge then will be to get it passed before the next election, for reasons explained further down. The Bill will have to compete with other government priorities, and may also be affected by the pre-election period of sensitivity before voting day, during which government business is traditionally put on hold for around three weeks. In an open letter published this week, a cross-party group of 60 MPs warned that there may not be enough time left to pass it.
The amendment process at the committee and report stages could also take some time. Earlier this year, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee found several key weaknesses in the government’s rental reform proposals, including the impact of open-ended tenancies on student lets, potential for abuse in the occupation and sales grounds for eviction, and local authorities’ limited ability to enforce rental rules.
Property professionals have found some clear problems with the Bill too, and evidence from outside experts can also be considered at the committee stage. If the government wants to reform the private rented sector in a way that works for agents, landlords and tenants, they will need to address concerns from inside and outside Parliament.
In a panel discussion hosted by PayProp last month, Simon Darby, Head of Public Affairs at public relations firm PLMR, said he put the bill’s chances at 25% – although he added that the likelihood would rise if the government has few other priorities for the next parliamentary session. On the other hand, if the government opts for an election in the spring instead of the expected October date, there will not be enough time to pass it, and bills can’t be carried over if there is an election.
To see what else PayProp’s panel had to say about the Renters (Reform) Bill – including its reception from the industry, impact on the eviction process, and how letting agents can lobby for amendments – download our free publication.