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Government risks undermining plans to ban ‘no fault’ tenant evictions, say MPs

9 February 2023

The Government risks undermining its own proposed tenancy reforms, include the banning of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, unless it fixes delays in the court system, says the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee

The Reforming the Private Rented Sector report expresses concerns that the Government’s White Paper may have a negative impact on the student private rental sector (PRS) market and highlights the threat to the PRS of the rise in holiday-lets.

The report warns that the Government’s proposed sales and occupations grounds in the White Paper could be “too easily exploited by bad landlords and become a backdoor to no-fault evictions”. The Committee recommends a series of changes to the sales and occupation grounds to help combat unfair eviction and insecurity of tenure.

The report welcomes the Government’s plans to introduce a legally binding decent homes standard (DHS) but points to a series of obstacles threatening the ability of local councils to enforce the standard, including precarious local government finances, shortage of qualified enforcement staff, and a lack of reliable data.

The report recommends the Government introduce a tougher civil penalties regime in the proposed renters reform bill to ensure councils have the capability to collect financial penalties on landlords who breach standards.

Chair's comment

Clive Betts, Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, said:

“By its own admission, the Government’s White Paper did not address the underlying cause of the affordability crisis in the private rented sector, namely the decades-long failure of successive Governments to build enough homes. Only a significant increase in housing, particularly affordable housing, will ultimately tackle the rocketing costs of renting for many tenants. We call on the Government to recommit delivering the affordable homes the country needs, particularly the 90,000 social rent homes needed every year.

“The Government should remedy the blight of unfair evictions and insecurity of tenure experienced by too many tenants today. From our inquiry, it’s not clear the Government fully appreciates that a creaking and unreformed courts system in England risks undermining their own tenancy reforms, including the welcome commitment to ban ‘no fault’ evictions. For landlords and tenants, it’s vital the Government now finds a practical way forward to enable courts to fast-track claims.”

While welcoming the Government’s proposed abolition of fixed-term tenancies, the report warns against applying this to the general student private rented sector market. The report finds abolishing fixed-term contracts risks making letting to students considerably less attractive to private landlords and could ultimately push up rents or reduce the availability of student rental properties, at a time when the market in many university towns and cities is already very tight. The report calls for the Government to retain fixed-term tenancies in the entire student housing sector but require all landlords letting to students to sign up to one of the existing government-approved codes of conduct.

The Committee’s report concludes that the proposed sales and occupation grounds could be exploited by bad landlords and recommend the Government:

  • ncrease from six months to one year the period at the start of a tenancy during which the landlord may not use either grounds; and
  • increase from three months to six months the period following the use of either ground during which the landlord may not market or relet the property.

The report notes the recent trend associated with the apparent decline of the PRS, the rise of the short and holiday-let market, particularly in tourist hotspots such as Cornwall and Scarborough. The report recommends the Government use the powers in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill to implement a tourist accommodation registration scheme and report back on whether the scheme could be used to allow local authorities to protect their communities from the holiday-let market.

Further information

Image: PA/John Birdsall