Will the turbulence in Westminster scupper promised rental reform?
When the Government released its ‘A fairer private rented sector’ White Paper in June, there was a sense across the housing and homelessness sector that this was a real step forward for the 4.4 million people privately renting in England.
Evictions from private tenancies have been one of the major causes of homelessness in recent years, so reforms to address the power imbalances between tenants and landlords have been long overdue. While some rightly criticised the lack of measures in the White Paper to reduce the cost of rent, confirmation that the Government was planning to deliver on its manifesto commitment to end ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions, as well as improve tenants’ powers in challenging rent increases and introduce measures to improve the quality of homes, meant it was generally seen as a major success for the organisations who have been campaigning tirelessly to reform the rental market in recent years.
It was Theresa May’s Government in 2019 who first outlined the plan to abolish ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions, so it’s fair to say it’s taken a while to get from that point to the prospect of legislation. Picking up the mantel and driving the reforms forward was former Housing Minister Michael Gove. But Boris Johnson sacked Gove from his position following Gove advising Johnson to resign.
It’s not clear what the new Secretary of State Greg Clark’s views on rental reform are, and it may be that the Government presses on with introducing the White Paper as legislation when it returns from summer break under a new leader, but those in the lettings sector are already predicting a delay.
The recent delaying of the Online Safety Bill, which had been in its final stages, provides credence to this prediction. Rental reform is also definitely not a vote winner among Conservative party members, so don’t expect to see the two candidates to replace Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, making big on enacting the manifesto commitment to end Section 21 evictions.
This potential delay comes at a time when inflation is rising at the fastest rate for 40 years, while recent analysis from property website Rightmove found that rents in the UK are now at record levels, with 20% increases recorded in Manchester and further rises predicted by the end of the year. This puts existing tenants at risk of rent increases and, increasing risk of rent arrears and evictions.
We know that key to reducing homelessness moving forward is tackling its root causes, with reforming the private rented sector is a key part of this. Therefore, it’s vital to keep rental reform on the agenda over the summer months, to make sure the White Paper is followed up by legislation enacting the reforms outlined and helping to prevent many more households being forced into homelessness.
Homeless Link is part of the Renters Reform Coalition and will also be writing to both Sunak and Truss asking them to commit to the reforms outlined in the White Paper. We want to show the sector is united on this issue so will be seeking signatures from as many organisations as possible. If you would like to lend your voice then please get in touch.
The millions of people privately renting in England can’t afford for this opportunity to be missed.
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