The Future of Section 21: Renters (Reform) Bill Reading

The Renters (Reform) Bill has finally returned to Parliament for a second reading, but no one wants to reveal what is happening to Section 21 no-fault evictions.

Abolishing Section 21 was one of the critical reforms in the Bill, but MPs are giving Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove a hard time over the measure.

Gove has confirmed Section 21 will take a back seat through Westminster while the Ministry of Justice looks at making repossessions quicker for landlords by reforming the court system.

But no one wants to say when or how this reformation will happen.

Leading the charge against Section 21 are student landlords who say the new periodic tenancy agreements in the Bill are not fit for purpose for student lets.

Government to rewrite tenancy agreements

The new tenancy agreements are linear instead of cyclical. The current arrangement allows students to sign up for a home before term. The government intends to rewrite the legislation to overcome this point.

At the same time as the Renters (Reform) Bill returned to Parliament for the second reading, MPs on the Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities Committee released the government reply to their investigation into renters keeping pets.

The reply says the Renters (Reform) Bill will give tenants the right to request to keep a pet, provided the request is not unreasonable. For example, the pet is too large or dangerous to keep in the home.

However, tenants must have pet insurance to cover damage to the property.

Specific problems are scratches and claw marks from cats and dogs on wooden floors.

Property portal revelations

The response to the committee also threw more light on how the proposed Privately Rented Property Portal will work.

Landlords must list:

  • Gas and electrical safety certificates and reports
  • Any other reports generated by tradespeople
  • Energy performance data
  • Details of ombudsman membership
  • Details of membership in a deposit protection scheme

Financial penalties will follow to deter landlords from entering false information on the portal. Landlords will self-certify that a property for rent meets the Decent Homes Standard.

Clive Betts, the MP who chairs the Levelling-Up committee, expects the portal to replace blanket selective licensing schemes.

“We don’t know what will happen in practice, but there will likely be fewer requests to operate blanket schemes, “ he said.

“But I think there will still be requests to operate or renew the kind of local schemes in areas where it’s felt that a more proactive enforcement of selective licencing would be beneficial.

“Most local authorities haven’t done blanket selective schemes but rather opted for more targeted schemes where they have found bad housing conditions.”

No, to rent controls

And on rent control?

During the four-hour second-reading debate of the Renters (Reform) Bill, Gove made clear that the government does not favour rent controls. Still, Labour’s deputy leader Andrea Rayner may revisit rent controls if her party wins the next election.

However, she promised Gove Labour’s support for the current bill.

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