Shelving of Renters Reform Bill ‘a let-down and hugely disappointing’

Tenants have been badly let down in a “broken renting system” by the failure of the Conservative Government to keep a promise to scrap no-fault evictions, campaigners have said.

However, Downing Street denied having failed renters, saying that “of course the Government wanted to get this passed”, when asked about the Renters Reform Bill.

The Bill was not mentioned on Thursday among legislation to be rushed through by MPs ahead of Parliament being prorogued on Friday, during a period known as “wash-up” ahead of the General Election.

Housing and homelessness charities and campaigners said it is “unacceptable” that the Bill would not pass and called on political parties to commit to abolishing Section 21 so-called no-fault evictions.

Asked if the Government has failed renters, a No 10 spokeswoman told reporters on Friday: “No.

“It’s part of the wash-up process that Bills are able to be passed where there is a consensus. But of course the Government wanted to get this passed and that’s why it was introduced in the first place.”

She pointed to measures that ministers have introduced to help renters, such as banning most letting fees, capping tenancy deposits and improvements to the standard of social housing.

Labour has pledged to “deliver where the Tories have failed and pass robust renters reform legislation that abolishes Section 21 no-fault evictions immediately and decisively levels the playing field between landlords and tenants”.

Shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook said: “The Tories’ decision to cave in to vested interests and abandon their already-weakened Renters Reform Bill leaves in tatters the promises they made to private tenants five years ago.

“If the Tories get back in, renters will remain exposed to spiralling costs, poor housing standards and the risk of homelessness from no-fault evictions.”

The Liberal Democrats described it as “another Conservative promise abandoned and left in a ditch”.

The party’s housing spokesperson Helen Morgan said: “This means the vast majority of renters still face being evicted from their homes through no fault of their own, all because of Conservative infighting.

“The Liberal Democrats will keep fighting for a fair deal for renters who have been disastrously let down by this Conservative Government.”

The plan for a ban was first announced in 2019 by then-prime minister Theresa May who described them as “unfair evictions” that allowed responsible tenants to be “uprooted by their landlord with little notice, and often little justification”.

Official figures published this month showed a six-year high in repossessions by bailiffs through no-fault evictions.

There were 2,682 such repossessions between January and March this year, according to Ministry of Justice figures – a rise of almost a fifth on the same period last year and the highest number for any quarter since the beginning of 2018.

Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt leaves Downing Street, London, after a Cabinet meeting
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt did not include the Bill as she laid out legislation which could be rushed through by MPs ahead of Parliament being prorogued (James Manning/PA)

Tenants’ campaigners had already criticised the Government for watering down the strength of the legislation by adding an amendment that the courts must be deemed ready before the ban comes into force.

But the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) insisted it was “in a state which would work for tenants and responsible landlords” and warned the housing market “now faces yet more crippling uncertainty about what the future of the private rented sector looks like”.

Tom Darling, campaign manager of the Renters’ Reform Coalition, which is made up of 20 housing and renter organisations, said: “In 2019 the Conservative Manifesto promised to deliver a better deal for private renters and an end to no-fault evictions.

“Renters in England – trapped in an unhealthy, unaffordable and insecure renting system – have been waiting five long years for action on that pledge.”

He said renters have been “so badly let down”, with the task of fixing England’s “broken renting system” falling to the next government.

He said amendments to the Bill had already seen it “undermined by repeated government concessions to landlord groups”.

“The next government must do much better.”

Housing charity Shelter said renters have been “failed”.

Polly Neate, its chief executive, said: “Renters have been shouting from the rooftops about the urgent need for reform, but once again politicians have let them down.”

She said tenants “have endured hellish conditions and rocketing evictions”, with thousands of households threatened with homelessness because of a no fault eviction since the Government promised to scrap them.

She added: “It’s unacceptable that they’ve now walked away with nothing to show for it.

“Renters can no longer be ignored, and lip service won’t cut it this time. All political parties must commit to abolishing unfair no fault evictions in all forms, and making renting safer, secure and more affordable.”

Ben Beadle, NRLA chief executive, said the Bill not passing would be “hugely disappointing”.

He said: “There has been too much dither and delay in government, and a failure to be clear about how to ensure changes would work in practice.

“Critically, the market now faces yet more crippling uncertainty about what the future of the private rented sector looks like.

“Reforming the sector will be an important issue for the next government and we will work constructively with them to ensure changes are fair and workable. That means empowering tenants to challenge rogue and criminal landlords whilst ensuring the confidence of responsible landlords to stay in the market.”