Industry News Sally Walmsley 14/03/2024

The clock is ticking on rental reform

There are real fears the Renters (Reform) Bill could fall as it approaches the final furlong, with no date announced for its third reading in the Commons. 

The Bill was conspicuous by its absence from next week’s list of Parliamentary business, leaving just two days available before the House rises for the Easter recess. 

With the country moving ever closer to a general election, there are fears the Government will simply run out of time to get the much-heralded Bill over the finish line as amendments are thrashed out behind the scenes. 

And while some will see this as cause for celebration, rental reform is not something that will go away, regardless of the colour of the next Government. 

As the NRLA has explained, it is likely a Labour version of the Bill would look significantly different to what’s on the table now, with changes likely to be brought in with immediate effect rather than a phased introduction under the Tories. 

If there is an autumn election may seem some way off, but with weeks of breaks for Easter, bank holidays and the summer recess Parliamentary time is running short.

This week the NRLA has penned a joint letter with homelessness charity Crisis asking for clairty on the future of the Bill, as a matter of urgency.

What's the hold-up?

The progress of the Bill, which needs to have its third reading in the Commons before moving on to the House of Lords, is being held up by discussions regarding amendments to the finer detail of the bill.  

Around 50 Conservative backbenchers have raised objections to the plans as they stand, and a proposed a series of amendments has, allegedly, been circulated to them by the Government. 

These amendments, which have not been made public, are said to include a commitment to keeping Section 21 until the courts have been reformed – and introducing a minimum four-month period during which tenants are unable to give notice. 

The lack of a firm date for the next reading may suggest talks have reached stalemate, with major implications for the sector, if this is the case. 

So how long have ministers realistically got?  

With next week’s Parliamentary business now scheduled, there are just two days before the Easter break during which the third reading could be scheduled – with the House rising on March 26.  

The Easter recess lasts until April 14, before the May Bank holiday recess from May 3 – 6. This is followed by the week-long Whitsun recess on May 24 – June 2. 

The House then sits until July 24, when the summer recess begins, a break lasting until September 1 and conference season. 

Looking at it through this lens, time is short, not least as the Bill still has to make it through three readings in the Lords after passing through the Commons. 

Chris Norris, NRLA, Policy and Campaigns Director, said action is needed to get the Bill over the line ahead of an election. 

He said: “We appear to have reached an impasse at what is a critical point in the progress of the Renters (Reform) Bill. 

“Unless the amendments are published, and the third reading listed as a priority, there is a very real chance it will fall, something that could have serious repercussions. 

“Rental reform proposals have cast a long shadow over the private rented sector for almost five years now*, creating an environment of incredible uncertainty for landlords and tenants.

“During this time we at the NRLA have campaigned long and hard for the development of a fair and balanced Bill that works for both landlords and tenants. 

“If, as is suggested, the Government is considering amendments that would effectively introduce a six-month minimum rental term period (four months, plus two months’ notice), as well as ensuring confidence in the courts, then we believe that balance would be struck.  

“Ministers now need to end the current uncertainty, publish the amendments, and push forward with constructive debate to bring about positive change, before it’s too late.” 

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley Magazine and Digital Editor

Sally is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.

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