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Rental Reform White Paper still some weeks away, hints government minister

The long-awaited White Paper on rental reform is some time away, with a minister at the centre of its preparation saying he and colleagues “are still in meetings and consultations”.

Eddie Hughes - a housing and homelessness minister at the newly-named Ministry of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities - told a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference that his team were still “in roundtables” and virtual events speaking with stakeholders.

“We’re reaching out to all elements of the sector to try to make sure there are no unintended consequences” he told the event, organised by campaigning charity Shelter and the Onward think tank.

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Hughes continued: “We want to get this right. For example if we start from a position of ‘Landlords Bad/Tenants Good’ then the approach might be too stringent for landlords and they’ll be forced out of the market. We don’t want that.”

He would not be drawn on whether the White Paper would include a recommendation for a mandatory landlord register - “I’m not ruling anything in or out” he said - but he wanted to ensure councils had a better understanding of how many landlords operated in their areas.

He also suggested that there would be a call for lifetime deposits allowing tenants to move more readily between rented homes.

In response to a question, Hughes confirmed that the White Paper would look at Section 21 but he made it clear he felt eviction powers for landlords were essential in principle, with appropriate safeguards. 

He described the White Paper and the consequent legislation as “a very significant piece of policy.”

There were questions from tenants and landlords, and even one from a landlord who was himself still a tenant.

Some supported the broad Shelter critique of the private rental sector but the majority were critical of the government’s regulations and controls on landlords, and many said the shortcomings of the private rental sector were less severe than those in the social sector.

The latest Queen’s Speech back in May included a broad pledge for rental reform, starting with a White Paper expected to be delivered ilater this year. This follows a more specific pledge, delivered by the government over two years ago, to scrap Section 21 eviction powers currently with landlords, while beefing up Section 8 powers.  

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    Whatever the eventual White Paper says, I guarantee it will not make landlords happy. There are more tenants (votes) than landlords.

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