A timetable for the banning of no-fault evictions must be set out by Government, Housing Secretary Michael Gove has been told, amid concerns it may otherwise be delayed indefinitely.
The long-awaited abolition of section 21, where a landlord can evict a tenant without providing any reason, would not come in until court reforms and stronger possession grounds for landlords were in place, the Government said on Tuesday.
But Labour MP Clive Betts, who chairs the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, criticised the Government’s apparent “lack of urgency and transparency around court reforms” given the length of time it had had to prepare for the section 21 ban.
He urged the Government to get on and ensure courts could fast-track claims “rather than kicking the can down the road on private rental reform and seeking to make flimsy excuses for it delaying introducing the provision to ban ‘no-fault’ evictions”.
In separate comments in a strongly worded letter to Mr Gove a day after the King’s Speech, which confirmed the Renters Reform Bill would return for the next parliamentary session, Mr Betts accused a Government minister of trying to “deflect blame” towards the committee.
A report by the committee in February had warned that a “creaking and unreformed courts system” potentially risked undermining the plans to protect renters, saying there was an urgent need for a practical way forward to enable courts to fast-track claims in a way that was fair to both landlords and tenants.
Mr Betts said housing minister Rachel Maclean had referenced this in a debate on the Bill in the Commons last month.
In his letter to Mr Gove, he said of her comments: “My committee feels strongly that this is a mischaracterisation of the committee’s recommendation and an attempt by the minister for housing and planning to deflect blame for these delays away from the Government and toward the committee.
“We feel doubly strongly about this given the significant delay the Government itself had in responding to the committee’s report.”
Mr Betts said while the committee had warned of issues in the courts system, “at no point did we recommend an indefinite delay to the abolition of section 21 as the way to solve this challenge”.
The letter stated that the Government had not accepted a recommendation to introduce a specialist housing court, and had “ignored” a suggestion for an agreement with landlords on how quickly the courts needed to be processing possession claims before they could have confidence in the system.
Mr Betts wrote: “We are extremely concerned about this refusal to provide any target or timeline for when the reforms to the court system will allow the legislation to be enacted.”
He said the Government had had four years “to ensure the legal system is fit to handle the consequences of the abolition of section 21”.
He added: “It is therefore difficult for us to understand the Government’s lack of urgency and transparency around court reforms.
“I reiterate the request I made during the debate for the Government to provide a timetable for the abolition of section 21.”
Some Conservative MPs have previously voiced their opposition to reforms in the Bill, saying it would add to “the burden” on landlords.
Housing and homelessness charity Shelter accused the Government of having given in to Conservative backbenchers, who it said wanted to see the Bill “kicked into the long grass”.