Government and landlords reach deal to progress the Renters (Reform) Bill: our reaction

Today, government correspondence has appeared in the press which details a number of concessions made to landlord groups and pro-landlord MPs in order to progress the Renters (Reform) Bill. The letter, available here, is written from Housing Minister Jacob Young to all Conservative MPs including those who had signed the amendments which have been blamed for delaying the Bill. Within the letter it is stated that these changes will result in the Bill returning to Parliament. While this is welcome, the circumstances in which it will return are far from ideal for tenants.

The Minister states that the changes will be made because “the Bill must strike the balance between delivering security for tenants and fairness for landlords”. However, far from balance, this intervention tilts the see-saw towards the landlords by making a number of concessions in their favour which will weaken tenants’ security and perhaps even safety in their own home, while not addressing any of our concerns about the Bill. The concessions made are:

‘Tenant trap’ – six month period of commitment for tenants

The first amendment is a six month period of commitment at the start of all tenancies, which we have termed the ‘tenant trap.’ This means that tenants who urgently need to move out of a home, almost certainly for a genuine and serious reason, will be liable for six months’ rent and potentially the need to stay in an unsafe home. The change risks trapping tenants in an unsuitable, mis-sold property for six months – and forcing them to pay rent along the way. This downside is much greater than that of a landlord who, under the previous proposals, would still have received two months’ notice if a tenant had to move out.

In order to truly redress the balance between tenants and landlords, the difference between these two outcomes must be understood and reflected in legislation. Maintaining the right of a tenant to leave an inadequate, dangerous or mis-sold property with two months’ notice is both proportionate and fair. We are very disappointed in this concession.

Review of courts before abolition of section 21

The outlawing of Section 21 is the centrepiece of this legislation and will genuinely improve the lives of tenants by boosting our security and our confidence to make complaints when things go wrong in our homes. The amendment which would delay the implementation of this until after a review into the courts is concerning.

Michael Gove has repeatedly promised that Section 21 will be consigned to the history books before the election, but this is looking very unlikely with the news that new tenancies will have to wait “until the Secretary of State is satisfied that enough progress has been made in court reform.”

Changes to existing tenancies will have to wait even longer – until the “Lord Chancellor (aka the Justice Secretary) has published an assessment on barriers to possession and the readiness of the courts”. This is not what was promised to tenants. The English Housing Survey estimates that only 20% of renters move each year, so this would leave the vast majority of us stuck under Section 21’s shadow for potentially years to come.

Review of licensing schemes

Concerningly, the government have also taken aim at licensing schemes. Complaints from landlords have led to a commitment to “conduct a review of licensing in light of our rental reforms, with the aim of reducing burdens on landlords”. We know that landlord licensing is an essential tool for councils to target enforcement at areas with particular problems and will remain so after the introduction of the Property Portal. The Property Portal is designed to work in tandem with existing licensing schemes, not replace them, and tenants will be less safe if any changes are made to reduce to scope of licensing.

Licensing provides opportunities to drive up standards in some of the sector’s worst and most dangerous homes which do not currently exist in any other active or proposed system, and therefore urge the government to keep the schemes in place to keep us safe.


While students had already denied the protections afforded to other tenants with earlier amendments allowing them to be evicted at the end of the academic year, the Bill is now going further and extending this threat of eviction to tenants in one and two bedroom homes. There is still no clarity on how ‘student’ will be designated in this category and so we fear it remains open to abuse by unscrupulous landlords. There is nothing stopping a landlord leveraging their power and suggesting that a tenant must claim they are a student in order to give them eviction rights that would not exist otherwise. This must be properly set out and enforced, but we are concerned about the prospect of abuse in these cases.

Other changes

Two other changes were proposed. One is to close a loophole which would have meant that landlords could have got around a no-let period (brought in after they evict a tenant with the intention to sell or move in) by letting out the home as a short term let. We welcome this change, but are equally conscious of the fact that this is difficult to enforce. This ground, as with a breach of the no-let period in long-term lets, is open to abuse and the government have not taken on the calls from Generation Rent and the Renters Reform Coalition to tighten these grounds to prevent this.

The other change involves extending homelessness duties to tenants evicted by Section 8 grounds. This should have been done from the start and, while we are pleased that it has been dealt with, this is not in any way a measure that would “balance” out the numerous and damaging concessions made to the landlord lobby.

It is right that the government resisted attempts to re-introduce fixed terms which would have even further skewed the balance of power towards the landlord in any interaction with a tenant. However, today’s changes have very much moved the dial back towards the landlord. The Bill promised to “redress the balance of power between landlords and tenants” and these changes seriously undermine that maxim. Instead, in seeking “balance”, these changes will bake in the unfairness and inequality which can make renting so miserable for so many. It is clear now that this Bill needs more for tenants to feel that we have a good deal. At a minimum, a four month notice period when being evicted, and a two-year protection from eviction, is required and we will be pushing for this as the Bill return to Parliament.

What happens next?

The letter confirms that “the Bill will be returning to the Commons after Easter Recess”. We have been calling for this since the latest round of delays to its progress and we are pleased that it will be able to get proper scrutiny in the House of Commons.

These concessions have been made behind closed doors with no regard for how to address our problems. When this finally returns to parliament, as we expect it to soon, MPs must support a four month notice period and longer protections from eviction. Otherwise this risks becoming a Landlords’ Bill of Rights and wasting the golden opportunity of improving the lives of England’s 12 million tenants.

Generation Rent will continue to push as hard as possible to make this Bill as strong and valuable for tenants as possible.


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