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Tories’ Hesitation on Renters Reform Bill Raises Concerns: Could Promised Changes Be Shelved Like Net-Zero Commitments?

In a dramatic turn of events, campaigners are expressing profound concerns that the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill in the UK might face abandonment, similar to the recent U-turn on net-zero commitments by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The Renters Reform Bill, hailed as much-needed legislation, aims to bolster tenant rights and eliminate the controversial ‘section 21’ no-fault evictions. However, reports have surfaced indicating that Conservative MPs with vested interests in the landlord sector could be obstructing the bill’s progress.

The Conservative Party initially pledged to eliminate section 21 evictions in April 2019 but only introduced legislation to achieve this goal in May 2023. Unfortunately, renters are still waiting for Members of Parliament to engage in a debate on the draft law.

Campaign group 38 Degrees recently conducted research revealing that one in five Conservative MPs also serve as landlords. CEO Matthew McGregor described the pushback against the bill as “profoundly worrying” and questioned the actions of MPs who have not thrown their full support behind rental reform.

The Renters Reform Bill seeks to rebalance the power dynamic between landlords and tenants by banning no-fault evictions, granting renters more authority to keep pets, and preventing landlords from excluding families with children or individuals receiving benefits from their properties.

A government spokesperson reassured the public of their commitment to the bill, stating that it is progressing through Parliament, with a second reading to follow shortly. During the second reading, MPs engage in debates on draft laws.

However, the Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, notably omitted the Renters Reform Bill from her announcement of upcoming parliamentary business, raising concerns about potential delays. The next parliamentary session is set to commence on November 7th.

With the next general election scheduled for next year, the timing of the bill’s crucial second reading remains uncertain. Delays have already taken a toll on tenants, as Tom Darling, campaign manager of Renters’ Reform Coalition, pointed out that every 15 minutes, someone receives a section 21 eviction notice, leaving them without a home through no fault of their own.

More than 23,000 tenancies have been subjected to no-fault eviction notices since the government’s initial promise to ban them in April 2019. In the first half of this year alone, 4,478 households faced this grim fate.

To abandon the bill before the next election would be a grave disappointment to England’s 11 million private renters, according to Darling. He emphasized that after four years since the bill was first promised, it is hard to believe it might now be dropped.

Meanwhile, lettings agency Hamptons reported that rents are rising at their fastest rate in nine years, with the average monthly rent in Britain exceeding £1,300. Ben Twomey, Chief Executive of Generation Rent, emphasized the urgency of government support for renters, stating that political infighting should not delay much-needed changes.

The government’s own impact assessment suggests that the law would cost landlords only £10 per rented property per year.

The National Residential Landlords Association has called on the government to provide clarity on when the bill will receive its second reading, citing the uncertainty that currently prevails in the private rented sector, compounded by recent events.

As renters eagerly await resolution, the fate of the Renters Reform Bill hangs in the balance, raising questions about the government’s commitment to fulfilling its promises to renters across the nation.