Renters Reform Bill: Tory landlord MPs are trying to ‘gut’ legislation, campaigners say

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Four landlord MPs have backed amendments which campaigns say will 'gut' the government's landmark rental legislation.

Four landlord MPs are trying to “gut” legislation which will reform the rental sector, campaigners have warned.

The MPs, who are all Conservatives, have backed a number of amendments to the Renters Reform Bill which will allow “hearsay” evidence to be used in eviction hearings and abolish council licensing schemes. They include MP for Don Valley Nick Fletcher and Dudley North MP Marco Longhi, who both let out 10 properties according to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, as well as Harrow East MP Bob Blackman, who is a landlord of six properties.

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The amendments also want to allow fixed-term tenancies - which would be banned by the bill - when there is a mutual agreement between landlords and tenants. Campaigners say this would effectively keep the current system in place as, with the demand for rental properties, tenants would always accept a fixed-term contract to secure a roof over their heads.

Labour’s Housing Secretary and Deputy Leader Angela Rayner hit out at the landlord MPs. She told NationalWorld: “While the Tories once again serve their own vested interests and fail to deliver for the British people, Labour stands ready to make renting fairer, more secure and more affordable."

Angela Rayner speaking at the TUC Congress at the ACC Liverpool. PIC: Peter Byrne/PA WireAngela Rayner speaking at the TUC Congress at the ACC Liverpool. PIC: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Angela Rayner speaking at the TUC Congress at the ACC Liverpool. PIC: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

NationalWorld contacted the four landlord MPs who have signed the amendments, which campaigners say will “gut” the bill. Fletcher, MP for Don Valley, South Yorkshire, was the only one to respond, arguing that instead of vested interests, the five were helping with their expertise.

He told NationalWorld: “I want happy tenants and happy landlords. I want tenants to pay a fair rent and to keep the property in good order. I want landlords to comply with the tenancy agreement with their tenant. 

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Doncaster Conservative MP Nick Fletcher says 2024 will be an "amazing year."Doncaster Conservative MP Nick Fletcher says 2024 will be an "amazing year."
Doncaster Conservative MP Nick Fletcher says 2024 will be an "amazing year."

“However, it is likely that these reforms which I have spoken out against will do neither of those things. It will drive up rents and will drive out those good landlords who are happy to have long term lets.”

Fletcher added: “With regard to any vested interests by MPs, the country needs to ask itself does it want legislation made and amended by MPs who understand the subject matter or by MPs who do not. I suggest they would choose the former.”

The government’s landmark rental reform legislation has already proved controversial, with questions from campaigners as to whether it will actually ban no-fault evictions. The Conservatives promised to get rid of Section 21 notices in their 2019 manifesto, however last year Housing Secretary Michael Gove wrote to Tory MPs saying this would not happen until improvements were made to the court system. 

The Renters’ Reform Coalition, a campaign group which comprises 20 leading housing organisations including Shelter, Crisis and Generation Rent, warned that this could take years. Gove recently told Laura Kuenssberg that no-fault evictions would be “outlawed” before the next general election.

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The bill is currently still awaiting its report stage in the House of Commons, despite having been first introduced to Parliament last May. The RRC has called it “inadequate” in its current state, and recently made the case for stronger protections such as longer notice periods and longer minimum tenancies.

Tom Darling, campaign manager of the RRC, said: “Of course, being a landlord doesn’t mean you can’t be an MP. But we think those who personally profit from England’s broken rental market have a particular duty to their constituents to deliver reforms to the private rented sector. Indeed, they all stood on manifestos to do just that in 2019.

Campaigners have accused landlord MPs of trying to "gut" the Renters Reform Bill. Credit: Adobe/Mark HallCampaigners have accused landlord MPs of trying to "gut" the Renters Reform Bill. Credit: Adobe/Mark Hall
Campaigners have accused landlord MPs of trying to "gut" the Renters Reform Bill. Credit: Adobe/Mark Hall | Adobe/Mark Hall

“It is therefore extremely concerning to see these MPs signing up to amendments that would render significant parts of the legislation pointless. What’s more, the government has now invested so much politically in this issue that we are concerned they might be looking to make concessions to these rebels to pass the bill quickly and say they have abolished no-fault evictions – despite in reality introducing a system that won’t be much better.”

He added: “The truth is the bill, as written, is not going to be a silver bullet. In reality we need reform that goes much further than the legislation as it stands – with longer tenancies, more time for renters to find a new home when evictions do happen, higher penalties for unscrupulous landlords, and a cap on rent increases to prevent unaffordable rent hikes becoming, in effect, no-fault evictions. The government will be sorely mistaken if it thinks it can pass a toothless bill written by landlords and then get a pat on the back.”

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Analysis by Shelter of Ministry of Justice figures earlier this month, showed the number of no-fault evictions rose by 36% in 2023 compared to 2022. Since the government promised to ban this in 2019, 26,000 people have lost their home by a Section 21 notice in England.

Matthew Pennycook, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, said: “The stark rise in Section 21 notices served last year lays bare the devastating impact that the Tories’ failure to abolish them is having on hard-pressed renters.

"Nearly 80,000 households have been threatened with homelessness since the Tories first promised to scrap no-fault evictions almost five years ago. Thousands more face the risk of eviction with each and every month ministers refuse to act. If the Tories don’t get on and quickly pass a Renters Reform Bill that abolishes no-fault evictions on day one, the next Labour government will get the job done.”

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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