New Housing Minister Backs Rent Reforms

New Housing Minister Felicity Buchan has shown an appetite to stretch reforming the private rental sector to the limit when interrogated about policy by a committee of lawmakers.

She was quizzed about the rent reform bill by Parliament’s Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee.

Buchan explained she was consulting the courts and the Ministry of Justice about how to deal with anti-social tenants.

“We need to be in a position when someone’s committing anti-social behaviour that there’s an efficient way to remove them,” she told the committee.

The minister added she was against a new housing court and preferred mediation. The MPs replied that they feared this approach would not work as even greater tenants challenge rent rises at property tribunals, straining court resources.

Random property inspections

Committee chair Clive Betts was sceptical about how much the minister’s plans relied on the hard-pressed justice system delivering support.

Buchan also faced questions about the government’s proposed online property portal.

She told the MPs landlords would pay a ‘small’ fee to register on the portal.

Sitting alongside Buchan was the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities director of the private rental sector, Charlotte Spencer.

She said councils would not be expected to inspect every registered home. Instead, landlords would self-certify their property as compliant with PRS rules backed up by a sample of random inspections.

MPs asked when Westminster would see the Rent Reform Bill introduced. The minister did not give a date but said: “It’s a key priority of government – there’s a desire to get on with it.”

Who is Felicity Buchan?

Felicity Buchan, 52, is MP for Kensington, London.

Born in Fraserburgh, Scotland, she studied at Oxford before taking up a career in finance, working for JP Morgan Chase and the Bank of America.

Her Parliamentary career started when she was elected MP in 2019.

In 2021, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed her trade envoy to Iceland and Norway. She also held the post of parliamentary private secretary for the Business department. Buchan resigned from both roles in July 2022 to protest against Johnson’s leadership following the outcry over his handling of the Chris Pincher scandal.

In September 2022, the incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss appointed her exchequer secretary to the Treasury for a short reign before Prime Minster Rishi Sunak plucked her off the backbenches for a stint at the DLUHC in October 2022.

What is the Renters Reform Bill?

The Renters Reform Bill is a new set of rules for the private rented sector.

Among the proposed measures are:

  • Abolishing Section 21 no-fault evictions
  • Allowing pets by default
  • Setting up a landlord database in England through an online portal
  • Revising tenancy agreements

The government has promised the bill since making the terms a manifesto promise in 2019 but will take the bill before Parliament soon.

More information about the Renters Reform Bill is available here.

What is the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee?

The committee monitors policy, spending and administration by the DLUHC.

Membership is cross-party and consists of 11 backbench MPs. The committee sets its agenda and reports to the DLUHC secretary of state, Michael Gove, with recommendations.

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