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Landlord MPs set to ‘torpedo’ Renters (Reform) Bill

Mar 19, 2024

Original article from Property118.com  Landlord MPs set to ‘torpedo’ Renters (Reform) Bill - Property118

Momentum is growing to torpedo the Renters (Reform) Bill that will abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and end fixed term tenancies, the Telegraph reports.

The news comes just days after The Sun revealed that angry Tory MPs have brought the Bill ‘close to collapse’.

Michael Gove, the housing secretary, vowed last month to pass the Bill before a General Election this year.

However, around 50 backbenchers have proposed amendments to the controversial legislation, which risks highlighting fractures in the Tory party.

The MPs are also warning that the Bill will lead to more homelessness and make housing more expensive.

Use a Section 21 notice to evict a tenant

Currently, landlords can use a Section 21 notice to evict a tenant but MPs worry about the new plans which will need court permission before a tenant can be eviction.

Landlords – including some sitting on the Commons benches – fear this could add months to evictions, with courts still unable to clear a pandemic-era backlog.

Under reforms, tenants who fall into arrears will also have a black mark placed against them – making it tougher to find a property in the future.

Marco Longhi, Conservative MP for Dudley North and a landlord, said while the Bill was ‘well-meaning’ it would backfire on the very tenants it was designed to help.

He added: “There will be a sustained move of private landlords exiting the market.

“It’s already happening, because they think it’s easier to invest elsewhere.

“A smaller pool of rental homes will lead to higher prices. That’s a simple economic fact.

“We need to build homes. Whatever attempts the Government makes to manipulate the market will always come back to this.”

‘Parts of this bill are bad for tenant’

Mr Longhi continued: “I absolutely know that parts of this bill are bad for tenants.

“It’s the law of unintended consequences.

“The bill was well-meaning, but I wish the Government would have involved all MPs – especially those of us who actually have a lot of experience in property.”

MPs from across the House have amended the Bill, including a mandatory review of the courts before a ban on no-fault evictions can be introduced.

Another amendment states that landlords cannot use the intention to sell or move in with a family member for at least the initial two years of a tenancy.

‘The big sticking point’ is rolling tenancies

One MP told the Telegraph that ‘the big sticking point’ between ministers and backbenchers is rolling tenancies, with the Government refusing to budge on the issue.

He said: “We want an amendment to be added so that if a landlord and tenant both agree to a fixed term, this will be allowed under the bill.

“Why is it the right of the Government to interfere in a contract between two parties?”

Critics are also pointing to the black mark on a tenant’s record following a court judgment would prevent many from finding somewhere else to live.

A Tory MP, who is a landlord, said: “An inadvertent consequence of abolishing section 21 is the risk of tenants who fall into arrears getting a court judgment against their name and ending up on the streets.

“Local authorities won’t help them and this will only add to the homelessness problem.”

He added: “The advantage to tenants of section 21 is that it’s no-fault, so even if they haven’t paid that won’t get written down.”

Yet to schedule sessions for amendments

The Bill is currently at the report stage and Tory whips are yet to schedule sessions for amendments to be debated by MPs in the Commons.

Chris Norris, of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said that MPs with personal experience as landlords are well-placed to pick holes in the draft policy.

He told the Telegraph: “If you’re a landlord yourself, you’re going to be more alive to those nuances and understand what the consequences will be.

“If you want to keep your business going, you want solid legislation.”

He added: “There’s criticism about the number of landlord MPs, but it should be beneficial that we leverage the wealth of experience we have in Parliament – from landlords running businesses to those doing casework on the part of tenants.”

Landlords are holding the Bill hostage

Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate, said landlords are holding the Bill hostage.

She added: “It is outrageous the government would allow the Renters (Reform) Bill to be held hostage by a small minority of MPs, many of them landlords, while renters are put through hell.

“With a General Election on the horizon, an overt betrayal of England’s 11 million renters will not be forgotten.

“The government must show its strength and oppose attempts to destroy or delay the bill from within its own ranks.”

Tom Darling, of the Renters’ Reform Coalition, said the bill would help to rebalance the ‘unequal relationship that results in tenants afraid to ask for basic repairs, stuck in unhealthy homes and unable to put down roots’.

He added: “It is outrageous that landlord MPs – all of whom were elected on a manifesto to deliver these moderate reforms – are now seeking to undermine the legislation.”

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