Return of renters Bill to Parliament ‘little cause for celebration’

Landlords have urged MPs to get on with passing long-promised rental reforms as a Bill returns to Parliament next week, but campaigners have warned it could be “waste of time” after claiming it has been watered down.

The Renters (Reform) Bill will have its report stage in the House of Commons on April 24, Penny Mordaunt confirmed on Thursday.

Plans to consult on new legislation to abolish Section 21 so-called no-fault evictions were first announced in 2019.

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

But campaigners have since accused the Government of making major concessions to landlord groups and “pro-landlord Conservative MPs”.

Five years on since reform was first promised, the Renters’ Reform Coalition said there is “little cause for celebration” for tenants.

Tom Darling, the organisation’s campaign manager, said: “In the week of the five-year anniversary of the promise of reform, this watered down Bill coming back is little cause for celebration for renters.

“If we don’t see a change of approach from the Government and an openness to improve the legislation, it will be a waste of time.”

The Government has previously said the abolition of Section 21 would not come in until reforms in the court system to ensure it was also a fair process for landlords.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) urged “swift passage” of the Bill to give “certainty to the market”.

Ben Beadle, NLRA chief executive, said: “Our focus has been on ensuring that when section 21 repossessions end, the replacement system works and is fair, to both tenants and responsible landlords.

“Tenants should rightly be empowered to hold rogue and criminal landlords to account to root out the minority who bring the sector into disrepute. However, it is vital that the majority of responsible landlords have confidence in the Bill to provide the homes for rent the country needs.

“The amendments proposed by the Government strike that balance.

“It is now important to provide certainty to the market, so it can transition smoothly to the new system.

“We therefore call on MPs to ensure swift passage of the Bill through Parliament with the Government’s planned changes. This should be underpinned by action to improve the justice system for renters and landlords alike.”

Scottish Conservative Party conference 2024
Housing Secretary Michael Gove is accused of caving under pressure from landlord MPs (Michal Wachucik/PA)

The update comes as new research suggested renters forced to vacate their homes in the last 12 months faced upfront costs of more than £1 billion.

The estimated 830,000 renters who had to move out of their property in the last 12 months spent on average £669 in unrecoverable costs as a consequence – amounting to collective bill of £550 million, according to analysis.

If other upfront costs such as rent paid in advance and tenancy deposits are factored in, the total rises to £1.2 billion, according to the findings of a survey by YouGov commissioned by Shelter.

Shelter has accused the Government of “running scared” of backbench MPs who are pushing for amendments to the Renters Reform Bill which would delay a planned ban on no-fault Section 21 evictions.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We are absolutely committed to the Renters (Reform) Bill, which will have its remaining stages in the House of Commons next week.

“This bill will abolish Section 21 evictions and deliver a fairer rented sector for tenants and landlords. We will continue to work across the sector to ensure it passes into law as soon as possible.”