Rental Reform

Rental reform – will government chaos delay it further?

The ‘A fairer private rented sector’ White Paper was published in June this year by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

It aims to reform the private rented sector across England with some of the most wide-ranging reforms for a generation.

Following a wave of cabinet resignations, Boris Johnson finally resigned as prime minister in July. Until the Conservative Party chooses a new leader in September, Johnson remains in charge. Although he has been heavily criticised for holidaying too much and leading a zombie government.

Following the upheaval, speculation about whether a new prime minister could delay or even scrap the planned rental reforms has increased.

But will it be delayed? Or will the new PM carry on where Johnson’s administration left off?

What rental reform under new leadership could entail

The removal of section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions forms arguably the main part of the White Paper proposals. Many have expressed worry that this will worsen the already backlogged court system.

Increased time for serving notice periods was addressed in the lengthy document. A property portal to tackle rogue lets, in addition to levying fines, was also outlined. This system could help speed up the court process in the future.  

The battle for next Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister is between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. With Truss the clear favourite. Neither candidate has spoken much about property, and not at all about rental reform. But both have suggested they won’t be making great strides from the manifesto which won the Tories the December 2019 election.

This, and the fact neither has spoken out in opposition against the reforms, suggests they will continue as planned. However, parliamentary time is already at a premium, and the chances of rental reform being introduced to Parliament, let alone making it into law, in 2022 seem remote.

There is every chance the new PM may not see it as a priority. Preferring to focus on other things. Equally, if they want to make an early mark and stamp their authority, wide-ranging rental reform could be just that thing. The work carried out by Michael Gove, Eddie Hughes and the team at DLUHC means the proposals are already fairly far down the line.

That said, the reforms have not been universally welcomed. Many are dead set against them. Strong opposition to some parts of the reforms are inevitable. The trade bodies are already lobbying hard to get things changed, amended or watered down.

The journey of what is expected to become the Renters’ Reform Bill is unlikely to be easy. We still don’t know what the final version will look like. These uncertainties seem to make further hold-ups inevitable.

The impact of further delays

The progress of the reforms, which were first mooted by Theresa May and beefed up in the 2019 manifesto and various Queen speeches since, has already been delayed by the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, and now the cost-of-living crisis. To put it simply, there are more pressing matters that have been demanding the time of parliament recently.

Couple that with all the drama and chaos surrounding Westminster, and specifically Downing Street, and it’s no surprise that progress has been slow.  

And, although the new successor will be selected at the beginning of next month, the time it takes to settle into such a role cannot be overlooked. The in-tray facing Sunak or Truss will be significant. As such, rental reform could be put on the backburner again.

The team at DLUHC has also almost completely changed. Gove, a key figure in driving rental reform, was sacked by an apparently vengeful Johnson. He’s been replaced by Greg Clarke. Nearly every other position has a new person in charge. Although Eddie Hughes, housing and homelessness minister and a key architect of the White Paper, remains in post.

This could help keep things on the straight and narrow. But there is also the prospect of a brand-new team all over again at DLUHC, if the new person in charge elects to stamp their own mark on things. This is likely to slow things down once more.

With so much uncertainty remaining, and so much to take in with regards to rental reform, it’s vital that you work with an experienced, well-respected letting agent.

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Rental reform - will government chaos delay it further?
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Rental reform - will government chaos delay it further?
Atkinson McLeod explores the rental reform proposals and discusses whether government chaos will cause further delays.
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Atkinson McLeod
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