Deputy PM Oliver Dowden ‘confident’ on rental reform

The Deputy Prime Minister has said he is “confident” the Conservative Party will meet its manifesto commitment to ban no-fault evictions, but campaigners questioned whether renters’ hopes for speedy reform were being “artificially raised yet again”.

Oliver Dowden was asked, while standing in for Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions, to give a date for when the long-promised ban on Section 21 evictions would come into force.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner accused the Government of delaying justice for renters and instead having “caved in to vested interests” on the backbenches, with campaigners having previously argued that too many concessions have been made to “pro-landlord Conservative MPs”.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the Conservatives are delaying justice for people being handed no-fault evictions (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the Conservatives are delaying justice for people being handed no-fault evictions (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Dowden replied: “I can name the date for (Ms Rayner), today. It’s today that this House will be voting on it. And I’m confident that in line with our manifesto we will deliver on that commitment.”

But the Renters’ Reform Coalition (RRC) said use of the word “today” was “disingenuous”.

“The Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden knows that no-fault evictions won’t be abolished today, so it’s disingenuous for him to say the practice will end today.

“Renters facing these evictions up and down the country tomorrow, who have already been so badly let down by endless delays caused by Conservative landlord MPs, don’t deserve to have their hopes artificially raised yet again.”

The BBC had earlier reported Mr Gove as saying he “hopes” the Bill becomes law ahead of the general election, but that it was up to the House of Lords “to decide the rate of progress that we can make”.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said his aim is for the s21 ban to come in in this Parliament (Lucy North/PA)
Housing Secretary Michael Gove said his aim is for the Section 21 ban to come in before the general election (Lucy North/PA)

“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.”

Plans to consult on new legislation to abolish Section 21 so-called no-fault evictions were first announced in 2019.

Delays followed and it was not until 2023 that the Renters (Reform) Bill made it to the House of Commons.

The Bill is set for its final stages in the House of Commons on Wednesday but the 20 charities and campaign groups which form the RRC said several rounds of “damaging concessions” have “fundamentally weakened” a Bill which will maintain a “central power imbalance” in favour of landlords.

The Government has previously indicated it will delay implementation of the Section 21 ban until the courts are assessed to have the capacity to deal with new cases.

Labour has said the ban promised in the Tory manifesto is “collapsing under the weight of vested interests” and called for the plan to be implemented immediately.

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.

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”.

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.

Criminal Justice Bill
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)

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.

Downing Street defended the Government’s approach to the Bill.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to striking the right balance between supporting renters and landlords. And we remain committed to the abolition of Section 21 and the legislation being debated in the House today will deliver that.

“It is, however, right that when we’re making fundamental reforms to the system, we ensure that the courts are prepared and have processes in place to hear cases fairly and swiftly. And that work is under way as a priority with the MoJ (Ministry of Justice) and courts.

“So that’s what we’ve set out today in terms of updates to our plans. But we intend to get the legislation passed this Parliament and to undertake this work as swiftly as possible.”

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