Renters Reform Bill Moves Forward Despite Uncertainty Over Eviction Clause Delay

The Renters (Reform) Bill has successfully passed to its next stage in the parliamentary process amidst heated debates and significant amendments, particularly regarding the delay in the abolition of Section 21 evictions until the court system is sufficiently prepared.

Court System Readiness and Amendment Changes
The progression of the Renters (Reform) Bill was marked by the approval of a critical amendment, necessitating the Lord Chancellor to review the county court possession order process in England. This assessment must occur before the end of no-fault evictions, deviating from initial promises that such measures would be in place before the forthcoming general election. During the bill’s third reading, Housing Minister Jacob Young acknowledged the need to potentially prioritize serious eviction cases, such as those involving anti-social behavior, in court listings.

Additionally, the bill introduces a change that tenants must now wait six months before they can issue a notice to end their tenancy, with exceptions made for circumstances like the death of a tenant or instances of domestic violence.

Updates to Housing Legislation and Licensing Protocols
The latest discussions have also led to modifications in the Housing Act 2004, ensuring that both superior landlords and rent-to-rent companies are accountable when served with improvement notices and could face Rent Repayment Orders. Minister Young emphasised the distinct roles of selective licensing and the forthcoming property portal. He stated, “The portal will be a resource for local authorities and help landlords understand their legal obligations, while selective licensing gives councils powers to license properties to address issues such as poor housing and crime.”

Industry Feedback and Future Prospects
The debate has elicited varied reactions from industry leaders. Oli Sherlock, Managing Director of Insurance at Goodlord, expressed concerns about the lack of detailed plans for funding the necessary upgrades to the court system, stating, “It is imperative for the county courts to have the resources they need to cope with the upcoming changes, the lack of detail around when and how the money to pay for this will be provided is disappointing.”

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “This bill delivers a fair deal for tenants and responsible landlords. In the interests of certainty for the sector it is now time to ensure the bill passes through parliament.

Labour MP Matthew Pennycook criticised the government’s vague timeline for the courts’ readiness, suggesting it could take years before Section 21 is abolished, thereby delaying essential tenant protections. His concerns were echoed by Clive Betts, chair of the housing select committee, who stressed the need for a clear commitment to timelines for abolishing Section 21.

As the bill now moves to further stages, it continues to stir debate on its ability to balance tenant protections with landlord interests, reflecting the complex dynamics of the UK’s private rented sector.