18 Jan 2022

A government housing minister says the Boris Johnson administration wants to shift the balance of power in the rental sector favour of tenants.

Eddie Hughes, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has told the House of Commons: “The housing market has undoubtedly left thousands of tenants feeling insecure and unprotected. However, this does not need to be the case and it should not be the case. We, the government, want to shift the odds in favour of renters and deliver a better deal for them.”

Hughes made his comments in a debate initiated by Labour MP Catherine West.

She related a story about a block of flats in her north London constituency whose new landlord threatened large numbers of tenants with eviction via a Section 21 notice if they didn’t accept a 30 per cent rise in rents.

West said this behaviour – which was retracted by the landlord after campaigners protested – nonetheless demonstrated why the long-awaited Rental Reform Bill and White Paper were needed.

Hughes backed West’s comments but refused to be drawn on when the legislation would come before Parliament, or when the White Paper would be released for consultation.

He said:  “Millions of responsible tenants are living in homes in the knowledge that they could be uprooted at a moment’s notice and with minimal justification. That is not peace of mind; that is simply wrong. 

“To give people the confidence they need to be able to plan for the future, we are stepping up with the biggest change in legislation for the private rented sector for a generation by abolishing no-fault evictions—section 21s as they are more formally known. 

“This is the centrepiece of our plans to raise standards across the whole of the private rented sector and reflects our determination to drive out rogue and unscrupulous landlords. 

“Our reforms will deliver a fairer, more effective rental market and, later this year, we will publish the White Paper that sets out the blueprint for the whole sector. I appreciate completely that the hon. Lady is very keen for us to progress, but it is important, given this once-in-a-generation change, that we make sure that we have consulted widely with people from across the sector to ensure that we get it right.”

He continued: “We are engaging with the widest possible range of voices, including stakeholders and organisations from across the sector. As much as we sometimes like to pretend, politicians do not always have the answers. 

“Hearing and listening to these views would not only ensure that the White Paper and future legislation actually address the challenges that exist, but help to create a system that works for everyone.”

And later he said in the debate: “We are clear about the fact that it is for landlords and tenants to agree the amount of rent that should be charged at the outset of a tenancy, but the government are keen to avoid any unintended negative consequences related to abolishing section 21. 

“As part of that, we are determined that there should not be any mechanism for landlords to force a tenant to leave a property by including clauses in tenancy agreements which hike up the rent by excessive or unreasonable amounts just before the agreements are due to expire.”

You can see a transcript of the whole debate here.

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