Two steps forward, one step back

On Thursday 16 June the government published the Renters’ Reform White Paper, A fairer private rented sector. White papers are documents that set out the government's intentions for policy change on a particular topic. This white paper outlines the government’s plans for reforming the private rented sector.

Just under three weeks after publishing the Renters’ Reform White Paper, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State responsible for these reforms was sacked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson shortly before the Prime Minister’s cabinet declared they had lost confidence in his leadership.

The Prime Minister signalled his intention to resign, and in the weeks that followed appointed Greg Clark as the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, with responsibility for the white paper and the Renters’ Reform Bill.

Work on these vital renting reforms continues behind the scenes, but the status of the Renters’ Reform Bill will only be certain once the Conservative Party appoint a new Prime Minister.

What do we know?

We know that the next Prime Minister will be either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss. Both Sunak and Truss served in Boris Johnson’s cabinet we hope to see continuity with the Renters’ Reform Bill. We also know that the 2019 Conservative Manifesto promised reform to the private rented sector and that the Conservative Party won the 2019 General Election on a manifesto that committed to private renting reform.

The Renters’ Reform Coalition remains committed to urging the government and whoever the next Prime Minister will be to bring forward the Renters’ Reform Bill. 

Our reaction to the Renters’ Reform White Paper

We welcomed the publication of the government’s Renters’ Reform White Paper, as a decisive moment on the journey to a better system of private renting.

Private renters deserve safe, secure, and affordable homes, but too often this is not the case. We are calling on the next Prime Minister to bring forward the Renters’ Reform Bill as a priority.

The changes proposed in the white paper would be hugely beneficial to renters but there is still a way to go to ensure the Renters’ Reform Bill delivers the transformation of private renting that’s desperately needed. Regardless of the status of the Renters’ Reform Bill, the coalition will continue to push for the reforms that renters are waiting for.

With that in mind, we set six tests that the Renters’ Reform Bill must meet to improve the lives of renters.

Here’s how the government’s white paper matches up to those tests:

1. Do the measures in the white paper end no-fault evictions?

The white paper clearly states that Section 21 evictions will end. However, a landlord can evict on the grounds of selling or moving into the property. We need details on how the government will ensure that these grounds are not exploited to force renters out of their homes for no reason. Also, further detail is needed on plans to better enable renters to challenge unreasonable rent rises.

2. Do the measures in the white paper reduce the harm of evictions in cases where they still take place?

We support the proposal in the white paper to protect renters from eviction if they have rent arrears caused by benefits delays. However, only six months’ protection from landlords using ‘no-fault’ grounds and two-month notice periods as standard will undermine renters’ security.

3. Do the measures in the white paper provide renters with security, and the flexibility to move if needed?

The white paper proposes a new system of periodic tenancies, which will give greater flexibility to renters, but landlords can still end a tenancy for a number of ‘no-fault’ reasons.

4. Do the measures in the white paper improve the safety and quality of homes in the private rented sector?

The measures set out will significantly improve the quality of privately rented homes, providing the details are right and local authorities have the expertise and resource to enforce standards.

5. Do the measures in the white paper improve access to justice for renters threatened with an unfair eviction or living in poor conditions?

The white paper proposes a new, mandatory Private Rented Sector Ombudsman. This could play a positive role in improving housing quality and the service renters receive. However, the Ombudsman should not replace court processes for evictions as renters who need to contest their case in court must be able to do so.

6. Do the measures in the white paper support renters with the rising cost of living?

Under the new repeated arrears ground, renters who accrue rent arrears because of the rising cost of living will be more quickly and easily evicted from their homes.