United Kingdom

End of the line for the Renters (Reform) Bill?

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The Houses of Parliament

Have backbench MPs seen off the Renters (Reform) Bill?

According to reports in the press, opposition from Conservative backbenchers – many of them also landlords – has put the bill on the edge of collapse. Housing Secretary Michael Gove is reportedly considering getting it over the line with Labour support.

MPs previously secured a concession from the government that Section 21 evictions will not be banned until courts are better able to handle eviction cases, but many still want further changes. Around 50 have put forward suggested amendments to the bill.

These include delaying the ban on Section 21 evictions until the Justice Secretary has reviewed its impact on the courts; a proposal to allow “hearsay” evidence when evicting tenants for antisocial behaviour; and preventing tenants from giving notice within the first four months of a tenancy.

Many of these amendments may be welcomed by the industry. Landlords and industry groups have repeatedly warned that the Renters (Reform) Bill could discourage investment in privately rented housing and push landlords out of the sector, ultimately resulting in higher rents and less available stock for tenants. These concerns have been echoed by MPs.

At the same time, say private rented sector figures, the ongoing uncertainty is causing damage, prompting the National Residential Landlords Association to team up with homelessness charity Crisis to call on the government to deliver the bill. According to their open letter, “the lack of progress and uncertainty about the future is destabilising and damaging for those living and working in the private-rented sector”.

Running out of time

While amendments could improve the Renters (Reform) Bill, they could also effectively kill it. Any amendments will need to be debated in Parliament, and that takes time.

Parliament’s Easter recess begins on 26 March, and after that MPs will only have around three months of parliamentary time before their summer break – split up by additional recesses. After the summer, MPs will also have a break for conference season.

There’s also the matter of an upcoming election. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that there won’t be a general election on 2 May, when local elections are taking place, but the deadline is in January 2025 and parliament’s calendar doesn’t leave much space for one to be held.

One last push

Even as the future of the Renters (Reform) Bill hangs in the balance, industry stakeholders are still fighting for further changes. Earlier this month, Propertymark chief executive Nathan Emerson met with politicians to call for fixed-term tenancies to be retained. (Scrapping fixed terms and making all tenancies open-ended is a key provision of the bill.)

Meanwhile, a group of debt relief charities has said that landlords should be made to offer tenants affordable repayment plans before evicting them over arrears. The group wants the government to create a private rented sector version of the social housing sector’s Pre-Action Protocol, which requires landlords to refer tenants to benefits advice, agree repayment schedules, and more.

Other housing policy headlines

Ground rent not legally or commercially necessary, says UK watchdog – The Guardian

Senior Labour figures divided over rent control – Landlord Today

Scottish government urged to resolve ‘unacceptable’ state of housing sector – Property Industry Eye

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