The government is admitting that its rental reform agenda is aimed primarily at the north of England - which just happens to be where the infamous ‘Red Wall’ constituencies are located, which are critical to Conservative success.
The government this week revealed an outline of what will be in a forthcoming Rental Reform Bill, which it describes as the ”biggest change to renters law in a generation – improving conditions and rights for millions in the private and socially rented sector.”
It will include legislation extending the Decent Homes Standard to the sector for the first time and giving all renters what it calls “the legal right to a safe and warm home.”
It will ban Section 21 evictions, “protecting tenants from unscrupulous landlords” and introduce the concept of an Ombudsman to arbitrate in disputes between private landlords and tenants, in a bid to avoid further demand on courts.
However, in the very final paragraph of a briefing document released by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities yesterday, it said: “The reforms will be of particular benefit to those in the North of England, with data from the English Housing Survey showing that the proportion of non-decent homes is higher in the North than other areas of the country.”
Elsewhere in the briefing note it says: “[The] reforms will prevent private landlords from benefiting from tax payer money for renting out low quality homes, slashing the £3 billion a year in housing benefit that is estimated to go to landlords renting out non-decent homes. It will also save the NHS anywhere up to the £340 million a year it is spending on the ill health that low quality privately rented homes create.”
The timetable for actual implementation of these measures is uncertain.
The government says a White Paper will be introduced “shortly” but this has already been on the agenda for many months without delivery. If some individual objectives - such as amending the Housing Act to remove Section 21 - require substantial legislation and debate, the process could still take as long as two years.
This would suggest the debate over the private rental sector could rumble on towards or even beyond the next General Election, scheduled for 2024.
Labour has taken up the issue of a lack of clarity on timing.
Labour’s London Assembly housing spokesperson, Sem Moema, says: “After three years of inexplicable delay, it is positive that the Government have committed to finally push through the Renters’ Reform Bill.
”What we urgently need now is a clear timetable which confirms exactly when the legislation, which crucially will ban unfair Section 21 evictions, will come into force.
“We have been here before with the promise of a policy white paper and this must be immediately forthcoming.
“Millions of renters in London simply can’t afford a situation in which Ministers continue to kick the can down the road on strengthening their rights and protections.”