Sunak and Gove Criticized for Yielding to Lobbying on Behalf of Landlords

Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove (Credits: Sky News)

Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove are under fire for reportedly diluting critical components of the renters’ reform bill amid claims they are yielding to pressure from Conservative MPs advocating for landlords’ interests.

A leaked letter to members of Parliament disclosed details of the bill’s alterations, indicating essential changes, including restrictions on tenants’ rights to terminate tenancies and uncertainties surrounding the abolishment of no-fault evictions.

Critics, including campaigners and opposition members, have disapproved of these revisions. Initially, the bill aimed to empower tenants by allowing them to end tenancies with two months’ notice at any time. However, an upcoming amendment will restrict this option within the first six months of a tenancy.

Sunak and Gove (Credits: The Guardian)

Further controversy stems from the Lord Chancellor’s proposed assessment of the judicial system’s preparedness before enforcing a ban on no-fault evictions, which casts doubt on the commitment to eliminate such evictions, known as section 21 notices.

This backpedaling occurs amidst an increase in households evicted via no-fault evictions, with a 39% rise reported in 2023 compared to the previous year, as highlighted by housing charity Shelter. The bill seems to have also been softened to exempt landlords renting to students from specific regulations, further fueling concerns among tenant advocates.

Jacob Young, a communities minister, reiterated the government’s commitment to abolishing section 21 notices, yet the recent concessions have sparked outrage. The Renters’ Reform Coalition, representing tenant interests, now describes the bill as favoring landlords and accuses the government of betraying renters.

During its review in the House of Lords, the coalition anticipates potential improvements to the bill, hoping for more tenant-friendly provisions.

The National Residential Landlords Association welcomes the adjustments, emphasizing the need for a fair system accommodating tenants and landlords. The association’s chief executive, Ben Beadle, expressed concerns over the uncertainty surrounding the bill’s future.

Michael Gove – Rishi Sunak (Credits: Sky News)

Matthew Pennycook, the shadow housing minister, criticized the government’s approach, accusing Sunak and Gove of prioritizing party politics over the welfare of British renters. After too many delays, the watering down of promised protections has led to widespread disappointment among private renters.

In response to the backlash, Young assured in his letter that the government had considered feedback from various stakeholders and would introduce amendments to address remaining concerns. The bill is set to be revisited in the Commons after the Easter recess, providing another opportunity for amendments.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities defended the bill as a landmark effort to balance tenants’ security with landlords’ rights. The bill commits to abolishing section 21 evictions and ensuring fairness in the private rented sector.

The government’s approach aims to reflect input from both landlord and tenant groups, and it promises amendments in the forthcoming Commons report stage.