25 Oct 23
MPs have given the Renters Reform Bill its Second Reading – a procedure which means it now continues into the Committee Stage, at which it will undergo line-by-line scrutiny.
No vote was taken, as is common at the end of this stage of parliamentary business.
Opening the debate Housing Secretary Michael Gove repeatedly spoke of the need to balance the needs of tenants and landlords in the progress of the Bill; he acknowledged issues with the existing Bill for the student market and committed to regulating student housing appropriately.
The role of the justice system was central to the debate and several responses reiterated the need to make the courts fit for purpose before Section 21 is abolished – a point the Housing Secretary made over the weekend in a letter to the Select Committee on Housing.
However, he repeated the government was committed to the removal of Section 21 to prevent bad landlords from intimidating tenants, silencing those complaining about poor standards of housing and the need for repairs.
Alongside this there was a commitment to strengthening provisions under Section 8 to reliably regain possession where necessary, lowering the threshold to prove anti-social behaviour and tackling unscrupulous tenants who abuse provisions to protect the vulnerable.
Angela Rayner, the shadow housing secretary, told MPs: “The government has betrayed renters with this grubby deal [to delay the abolition of Section 21] with the Tory backbenches. The Conservatives’ long-promised ban on no-fault evictions has majority and cross-party support across the house, but this flip-flop kicks it into the long grass. Having broken the justice system, they are now using their own failure to indefinitely delay keeping their promises to renters in the most underhand way. This comes at a heavy price for renters who have been let down for too long already.”
But closing the debate her junior shadow housing minister, Matthew Pennycook, said: “We will work with the government on this Bill but make no mistake we will be pushing to strengthen it to the benefit of private tenants who have been waiting too long for this piece of meaningful legislation.”
Labour has made it clear it will be pushing for measures that go beyond those already in the Bill, particularly on an expansion of rent repayment orders; amending possession grounds to protect tenants against ‘no fault’ evictions; and the outlawing of blanket bans on landlords accepting tenants with children or who are in receipt of benefits.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – now an independent MP – called for rent controls and strengthening of some provisions in the Bill; these were rejected by Michael Gove.
Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Propertymark, says: “It is clear that more needs to be done to get the balance right for landlords, agents and tenants. Outstanding questions need to be answered about the role of a reformed judicial system.
“The UK Government have failed to take seriously the potential impact and the unintended consequences of the removal of Section 21 and the impact this could have on landlords exiting the market, which will do nothing to tackle the demand crisis in the private rented sector. It is important that the details are published and shared.
“The UK Government has listened to the concerns of our members with the need for special requirements for the student market, which is welcome, and many MPs outlined how the Bill can be strengthened through a review and reversal of recent tax changes, raising the Local Housing Allowance and local authority capacity to enforce legislation – issues that Propertymark has consistently raised.
“Propertymark will engage further at Committee Stage to ensure the Bill is evidence based and the role of property agents is incorporated fairly within the introduction of a new Ombudsman for landlords, and agents can play a full role in increasing property standards.”
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