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Renters Reform Bill fast becoming landlords’ charter after Gove’s concessions, say campaigners

The government has caved under pressure from landlord Tory MPs to water down a long-promised plan to ban no-fault evictions.

Michael Gove has written to Conservative backbenchers announcing measures to “bolster landlord protections” in the Renters Reform Bill, which was designed to provide more security and better value for tenants.

The long-delayed bill was introduced to parliament last May to deliver on a commitment from the 2019 Tory manifesto to abolish Section 21 so-called “no-fault” evictions.

But a leaked letter on Thursday revealed Mr Gove had made a series of concessions which he trumpeted as “having the support of main landlord groups”.

Campaigners said the leaked letter, obtained by The Sun, showed the long-delayed bill was fast becoming a “landlords’ charter”.

Michael Gove was accused of turning the renters’ reform bill into a ‘landlords’ charter’ (PA Wire)
Michael Gove was accused of turning the renters’ reform bill into a ‘landlords’ charter’ (PA Wire)

The Renters’ Reform Coalition (RRC) accused the government of making “major concessions to landlord groups and pro-landlord Conservative MPs”.

Delays followed and it was not until 2023 that the Renters Reform Bill made it to the House of Commons.

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

Tom Darling, Renters’ Reform Coalition

A group representing landlords has urged ministers to “crack on to ensure the bill can proceed with the scrutiny it deserves” and criticised a lack of progress to date as being “destabilising and damaging” for all concerned.

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 states that the bill will return to the Commons for its report stage when parliament comes back after the Easter break.

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

The lack of progress and uncertainty about the future is destabilising and damaging for those living and working in the private-rented sector

Ben Beadle, National Residential Landlords Association

The government has previously said the abolition of Section 21 would not come in before 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”.

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.

Only a watertight bill will curb the unfairness that’s hardwired into England’s rigged renting system

Polly Neate, Shelter

“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.

“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.”

The Liberal Democrats said the bill has been “left in tatters” and accused Mr Gove of caving in to Tory MPs.

Housing spokesman Helen Morgan said: “Michael Gove has caved in to Conservative MPs, meaning his party’s manifesto promise to ban no-fault evictions has been left in tatters.

“This watered-down plan means the vast majority of renters still face being evicted from their homes through no fault of their own.

“The Liberal Democrats will keep fighting to stand up for a fair deal for renters who have been disastrously let down by this Conservative government.”

Labour MP Matthew Pennycook said  the government had ‘put the interests of party management ahead of what is right for the British people’
Labour MP Matthew Pennycook said the government had ‘put the interests of party management ahead of what is right for the British people’

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.”

A government source said: “This is a balanced package of measures that delivers our manifesto commitment to get rid of unfair no-fault evictions and will ensure a fairer private rented sector for both tenants and landlords.

“The bill will return to the House of Commons shortly and amendments will be scrutinised, debated and voted upon in the usual way.”