Some lettings industry figures are beginning to express doubt as to whether the government’s broad commitment to reform the private rental sector really will result in the abolition of Section 21 eviction powers for agents and landlords.
The Queen’s Speech on Wednesday contained a broad commitment by the government to reform the sector.
At the time most observers interpreted that to mean the Renters Reform Bill, first mooted in 2019, would finally reach the House of Commons for consideration later this year, starting with a White Paper expected in the autumn to trigger more consultation.
However, leading property lawyer David Smith suggests the government pledge may be somewhat weaker than that.
Smith, a partner at JMW Solicitors, says: “There is no commitment to publish a bill to abolish s21 notices and given that bills were being promised in both the Spring and Autumn of 2021 that is very telling.
Instead, the government has now committed itself to finally publish its response to the original consultation on getting rid of s21 - a response which it has never in fact published.
“That is a very much weaker offer. Almost as if there is a desire to distract from this there is, mainly repeated, talk of ‘lifetime’ deposits and landlord redress schemes. There is also a statement that the government will ‘explore the merits of a landlord register’.
“This seems to me like a textbook example of kicking s21 reform into the long grass. It is clear nothing will be happening in that regard for at least a year, and possibly far longer.
“So I very much disagree with the suggestions that this means the government is still highly committed to reform. Agents and landlords will be cheering at this while tenant groups will, with some cause given the expectations that government casually gave to them, be furious.”
And although Generation Rent - the campaign group of activists which has led the call for the abolition of Section 21 in recent times - has officially welcomed the government statement in the Queen’s Speech, some in the organisation appear less enthusiastic.
Dan Wilson Craw, the deputy director of the group, has tweeted: “Rather shockingly the Queen's Speech didn't say there would be a Bill on renters' rights this year (that thing we need to actually change the law) … The Queen says the government will ‘help more people own their own home, while enhancing rights of those who rent’. Other laws on planning, building safety and leasehold. Big question is whether the Renters Reform Bill has been rolled over from the 2019 speech.”