Rental reforms clear the Commons amid fears they favour landlords over tenants

The Government has been accused of implementing an ‘indefinite delay’ on banning so-called no-fault evictions.

The Bill included a long-promised plan to end tenants being forced from their homes under Section 21 notices
The Bill included a long-promised plan to end tenants being forced from their homes under Section 21 notices (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Reforms to the private rented sector have moved closer to becoming law amid warnings they favour landlords over tenants.

MPs and campaigners criticised the Government for implementing an “indefinite delay” on plans to abolish so-called “no-fault” Section 21 evictions which were first announced in 2019.

Concerns were also raised on the Conservative benches about the overall impact of the Renters (Reform) Bill, with Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) claiming it could have “dire consequences” for future levels of housing supply.

The Bill’s original intention was to 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.

It also included the long-promised plan to end tenants being forced from their homes under Section 21 notices.

But the Government wants to delay implementation of the ban until the courts are assessed to have the capacity to deal with new cases.

MPs voted 287 to 144, majority 143, in favour of new clause 30, which the Government said would enable it to assess the effects that its new tenancy system is having on the county courts before its reforms are rolled out more widely.

A Labour amendment to ensure the abolition of Section 21 evictions would come into force on royal assent was rejected by 282 to 158, majority 124.

MPs also voted 283 to 143, majority 140, in favour of the Government’s new clause 15 to ensure a tenant’s notice to quit an assured tenancy is not valid if it would take effect in the first six months.

A landlord could agree in writing to the notice to quit taking effect earlier.

The Bill received an unopposed third reading and will undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords.

Ahead of the debate, the BBC reported Housing Secretary Michael Gove as saying he “hopes” the Bill becomes law ahead of the general election, but that it was up to the Lords “to decide the rate of progress that we can make”.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “The Government has led private renters down the garden path and dashed their best chance of a secure home.

“It has committed a colossal act of cowardice in the Commons by ratifying an indefinite delay to the ban on no-fault evictions, and by sneaking fixed-term tenancies back into the Renters (Reform) Bill.”

Tom Darling, campaign manager of the Renters Reform Coalition, said the current version of the Bill will “fail renters”, adding: “It will preserve the current balance of power that has created the renting crisis we face today.

“Frankly, it needs major surgery, and if it doesn’t get it more legislation will be urgently needed from the next government.”

Speaking at report stage, housing minister Jacob Young told the Commons: “The Bill will abolish Section 21 and bring in new decency standards, giving England’s eleven million tenants more certainty of secure and healthy homes.”

Mr Young said the Government could not provide a date on which no-fault evictions would be abolished, saying: “Because I can’t say until we’re confident that the county court system is ready.”

He also told MPs: “We’re investing £1.2 million for the courts and tribunals service to deliver these new processes.

“If we don’t have a ready court system when we make this change, the biggest change in 30 years, if the courts aren’t ready for these changes that will not benefit tenants, it won’t benefit landlords, but it certainly won’t benefit tenants either.”

Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke (Dover) labelled the Bill a “betrayal” of the Government’s 2019 manifesto commitment.

Ms Elphicke said the Bill “does not go far enough now in dealing with the fundamental challenges” of the private rented sector, adding: “Sadly, the original principle of the Bill, which was to create a fair and responsible new rented sector, has been undermined by the Government’s amendments.”

Ms Elphicke also said: “This is a Bill that the Conservative manifesto in 2019 promised would benefit tenants. Instead, this has become a Bill where the balance too often is in favour of the landlords, particularly with the new clause 30 which could indefinitely delay the abolition of section 21 no-fault evictions.”

Labour shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook accused ministers of “grubby political horse trading”.

Mr Pennycook said: “We remain firmly of the view that the Bill is not yet fit for purpose and that it must be strengthened to the benefit of renters. As a result of the fact that the Government appear determined to do the opposite, and further tilt the playing field to the landlord interest.”

Tory backbencher Mr Mangnall (Totnes) said he believed it was possible to ban Section 21 evictions whilst also retaining fixed-term tenancies, saying the Bill must include “leeway” for the latter to remain beyond certain instances within the student housing market.

He said: “The consequences of removing fixed-term tenancies is essentially the state turning around and saying to individuals what they can or cannot do with their own private properties.”

He added: “We are sending completely the wrong message with dire consequences for future levels of housing supply, we’re making an enormous mistake which will reduce long-term lets in favour of short-term lets and result in many properties being taken off the rental market.”