Charities warn Bill to ban no-fault evictions ‘will fail’ if amendments backed

There are calls for ministers to resist pressure from ‘vested interests’ ahead of key votes on the Renters (Reform) Bill on Wednesday.

The final stages of the Renters Reform Bill in the House of Commons take place on Wednesday
The final stages of the Renters Reform Bill in the House of Commons take place on Wednesday (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Labour Party and campaigners have warned reforms aimed at ending “no-fault” evictions will fail as the Government has bowed to pressure from Tory backbenchers to delay implementation.

The Renters (Reform) Bill, which is set for its final stages in the House of Commons on Wednesday, includes a long-promised plan to end tenants being forced from their homes under Section 21 notices.

But the Government has indicated it will delay implementation of the ban until the courts are assessed to have the capacity to deal with new cases, prompting accusations that ministers have abandoned renters and conceded to “pro-landlord Conservative MPs”.

The 20 charities and campaign groups which form the Renters Reform Coalition (RRC) said several rounds of “damaging concessions” have “fundamentally weakened” a Bill which will maintain a “central power imbalance” in favour of landlords.

Labour said the no-fault eviction ban promised in the Tory manifesto is “collapsing under the weight of vested interests” and called for the plan to be implemented immediately.

However, a body representing landlords said the Bill delivers a “fair deal for tenants and responsible landlords” and called for the legislation to pass through Parliament “in the interests of certainty for the sector”.

Recent research by YouGov commissioned by homelessness charity Shelter showed 943,000 tenants had been served Section 21 notices since April 2019, which is equivalent to more than 500 renters per day.

Nearly 85,000 of these households were put at risk of homelessness as a result, the research found.

However, the Government has said it cannot commit to a time frame for when the ban will be implemented.

According to the BBC, Housing Secretary Michael Gove said he “hopes” the Bill becomes law ahead of the General Election, but it was up to the House of Lords “to decide the rate of progress that we can make”.

He told the broadcaster: “My determination is to ensure that we get this bill on the statute book. But it’s up to the Lords to decide the rate of progress that we can make.

“If opposition parties are supportive – and I believe that while they have some quibbles, they are supportive of the essential principle that we’re bringing forward – then we can have Section 21 ended before the general election. That’s the aim.”

Labour’s shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook accused ministers of lacking the “courage” to protect renters’ rights as promised.

He said: “Instead of ministers having the courage to face down their unruly backbenchers, this weak and divided Conservative Government is appeasing them at the expense of private renters who will see the rights and protections they were promised watered down.

“The long overdue end of no-fault evictions cannot be made dependent on unspecified future court improvements subjectively determined by ministers.

“The Government needs to definitively abolish Section 21 evictions at the point the Renters Reform Bill becomes law or a Labour government will finish the job.”

The RRC has argued for changes to the legislation which it said would strengthen tenant protections, but insisted groups representing private renters had “not been taken seriously” and claimed ministers had met with lobbyists for landlords and estate agents “twice as often”.

It added: “The result of all the Government’s backtracking is that we now have a Bill that abolishes Section 21 in name only.

“There is no guarantee it would ever fully abolish Section 21, and even then the new tenancy system set to replace it will be little better.

“This legislation is intended to give the impression of improving conditions for renters, but in fact it preserves the central power imbalance at the root of why renting in England is in crisis.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, said the Bill will be a “colossal failure” without “serious amendments”.

She added: “Shameful attempts to delay the ban on no-fault evictions and sneak fixed-term tenancies back in must be resisted, otherwise the sound of broken promises will be ringing all too loudly in renters’ ears when they finally head for the ballot box.”

About 85,000 renters renters were put at risk of homelessness as a result of Section 21 evictions since 2019, according to YouGov research
About 85,000 renters renters were put at risk of homelessness as a result of Section 21 evictions since 2019, according to YouGov research (Yui Mok/PA)

Darren Baxter, principal policy adviser at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the Bill had been repeatedly watered down and was now “seriously inadequate”.

He called on ministers to reverse the planned delay to the Section 21 ban and ensure a limit on in-tenancy rent increases is put in place.

Siobhan Donnachie, campaigns officer at the London Renters Union, said proposed changes to the Bill would fail to give renters any security.

“After five long years, there is still no end in sight to the slew of evictions forcing tens of thousands of us into homelessness,” she added.

As well as the abolition of Section 21 repossessions, provisions in the Bill as originally drafted would end fixed-term tenancies, introduce a decent home standard, establish a new ombudsman and aim to provide protections for families in receipt of benefits from discrimination.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, backed the Bill in its current form, saying it will provide stability for both tenants and landlords.

He added: “Going forward, it will always be for the courts to decide if landlords have met the threshold to repossess a property based on a series of legitimate reasons.

“This includes tenant anti-social behaviour, serious rent arrears or where a landlord plans to sell a property.

“That said, the tenant group Generation Rent has rightly warned that landlords selling properties is ‘a leading cause of homelessness’.

“The only answer to this is ensuring responsible landlords feel confident enough to stay in the market.

“Greater security for tenants will mean nothing if the rental homes are not there in the first place.”

Mr Beadle also highlighted that a number of amendments to the Bill followed recommendations made by the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee.

Responding to the criticism, levelling up minister Jacob Young said: “The Renters Reform Bill will deliver our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 no-fault evictions and ensure a fairer private rented sector for both tenants and landlords.

“These are the biggest changes to the sector in 30 years – and we will continue to work across the sector to ensure the Bill passes into law as soon as possible.”