Housing

No-fault eviction notice periods must be increased to four months, government told

Over 100 council leaders are calling on the government to strengthen the Renters Reform Bill, amid reports that it will be “watered down.”

Protesters with coloured placards

Campaigners outside parliament to protest amendments to the Renters Reform Bill, 23 October 2023. Image: Zuma Press Inc./Alamy

More than 100 council leaders are calling on the government to strengthen protections of tenants in the Renters Reform Bill, amid reports that landlord MPs are lobbying to “water it down.”

After nearly five years of promises, the Renters Reform Bill – which will axe no-fault evictions, as known as Section 21 evictions – has still not passed into law. And leaked documents show that the government is consulting landlord MPs on amendments to seriously dilute the bill.

The draft government amendments – circulated in a WhatsApp group of Tory MPs and seen by the BBC – include putting it in law that the ban on no-fault evictions could not be implemented until an assessment of its impact on the courts had been published by the justice secretary. Given the state of the justice system, this could amount to an indefinite delay.

Amid these reports, 103 council leaders have signed a letter to secretary of state for housing Michael Gove demanding changes to the stalled legislation, which they claimed “will help to reduce the number of people claiming homelessness duties because of the end of a private rented sector tenancy.”

These changes include allowing tenants four months’ notice if they are being evicted through no fault of their own.

“The Renters (Reform) Bill has many positive aspects but is still insufficient to address the scale of the crisis in the private rented sector,” said Tom Darling, campaign manager of the Renters’ Reform Coalition.

“Rather than watering the legislation down, the government need to be strengthening it – one critical change the government must implement is increasing notice periods for renters when they are forced to move.

“Just as it does today, continuing with the status quo two-month notice period will leave renters frantically scrambling to find a suitable new home in time, with many ending up presenting as homeless to their local council when this search comes up empty.”

The changes would “provide some much needed respite to local authorities buckling under the growing cost of temporary accommodation,” he added.

In 2023/24 councils in England are expected to spend £2bn on temporary accommodation.The number of households living in temporary accommodation to have doubled since 2012, reaching record breaking highs, including the highest number of homeless children – more than 138,000 – since records began.

As parliamentarians fight over the bill’s contents, renters continue to suffer. Some 9,457 households in England saw their homes repossessed by county court bailiffs after receiving a Section 21 eviction notice last year.

A total of 26,000 households have been evicted by county court bailiffs in this way since April 2019, when the Conservatives first announced plans to scrap the notices.

Many of the MPs most opposed to the bill are landlords, research released last week suggested. Of the 40 MPs supporting the amendments, some 30% are landlords. This is significantly higher than the percentage of English MPs in the House of Commons who are landlords, which is 17%.

These MPs are among those being consulted on the government’s possible amendments – including potential delays to the implementation of the ban.

The National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) welcomed the government’s hypothetical amendments, but urged the government to end “destabilising and damaging” delays.

“The NRLA has consistently campaigned for the bill to balance the protections promised to tenants and the legitimate business needs of landlords to enable them to continue to provide rented homes,” a spokesperson said.

“If the government is considering amendments that would provide for assurances to landlords with a six-month minimum term and ensure confidence for all in the court process, then that balance would be struck.”

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