United Kingdom

Rental reform coming soon, says Michael Gove

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A portrait of Housing Secretary Michael Gove

This month, Housing Secretary Michael Gove promised again that no-fault evictions would be banned before the next election.

The Renters (Reform) Bill, which envisages abolishing Section 21 “no fault” evictions, has been delayed several times since it was first introduced to Parliament in May 2023. Last October, for example, the government said eviction reforms would be delayed until the court system has been improved to handle housing cases quicker.

A mountain to climb

The Renters (Reform) Bill is currently at the report stage in the House of Commons. This gives MPs a chance to publicly put forward and debate amendments, which can take several days for a complex bill. After that, the amended bill will face a third reading vote in the Commons, and will then have to go through the House of Lords.

So far, no parliamentary time has been set aside for any of this. It may also have to compete for space with the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill and proposed changes to short-term rental laws.

The court reforms promised by the government also haven’t happened yet, and it’s not clear what form they could take. Landlords are still facing lengthy delays to secure possession through the courts, and sending more eviction cases through the courts is likely to increase the strain without the necessary reforms and funding. With the next election due no later than January 2025, the government will either have to rush court reform through Parliament or abolish Section 21 evictions without beefing up the court system first.

Ongoing arguments

While the Housing Secretary is keen to get the Renters (Reform) Bill passed, many lettings sector stakeholders on both sides of the argument think it is unfit for purpose.

According to a survey by Propertymark, 73% of letting agents believe that the bill is fundamentally unfair. Agents also backed key reforms to be made before the bill is passed, including more mandatory possession grounds and keeping fixed-term tenancies in place for student lets.

And while activist groups have thrown their weight behind the Renters (Reform) Bill, they have argued that it doesn’t go far enough. The Renters Reform Coalition wrote to Michael Gove this month calling for four-month notice periods for eviction, as well as tougher evidence standards for landlords to secure possession in court. Meanwhile, Generation Rent has called for city mayors to be allowed to seize properties from law-breaking landlords.

In the meantime, tenants are paying the price for the ongoing uncertainty. Last year, 9,457 households were evicted by bailiffs after receiving a Section 21 eviction – 50% more than in 2022. Some in the sector say that this is because landlords are selling up due to nervousness over eviction rules as well as costly interest rate increases.

Other landlord headlines

Official probe into rent-to-rent sector launched – LandlordZONE

Landlords face eviction hurdles over Gas Safety certificates, says law firm – Property118

Landlord rules in force next month “flawed and unworkable” – Landlord Today

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