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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Government fails to ban ‘no fault’ evictions before General Election, Deputy PM confirms

The Deputy Prime Minister has said that the Government ran out of time to ban ‘no fault’ evictions before the general election.

The Conservatives had promised in their 2019 election manifesto to abolish Section 21 notices, which are used by landlords to evict tenants without any reason needing to be given.

The Renters Reform Bill, intended to deliver the ban, was first introduced in the House of Commons in May last year. But its progress was delayed by opposition from several Tory MPs who feared it would cause landlords to sell up and who wanted to strengthen protections for landlords.

As recently as February, Housing Secretary Michael Gove had promised that a ban would be delivered by the next general election.

But it emerged, following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement of an election on 4 July, that the necessary legislation would not be passed during the ‘wash up’ period before Parliament is dissolved.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service on Friday, Deputy PM Oliver Dowden said: “Well, as happens at the end of the Parliament, when you announce a general election, there are large amounts of legislation on the books. We’ve only got two days to conclude it all.”

Asked about the fact that the Government first promised to deliver a ban almost five years ago, he said: “It just hasn’t been possible to get this legislation through in the ‘wash up’ period.”

New Government data released last week, showed that 2,682 households in England were marched out of their homes by bailiffs as a result of Section 21 evictions between January and March – up 19 per cent in a year, and the highest number in six years.

On the topic of housing in general, Mr Dowden said: “We’ve built 2.5 million houses [since 2010].

“You contrast that with here in London, Sadiq Khan and the Labour party have the poorest house-building record pretty much anywhere in the country.

“So I think Labour-controlled London is an indication of my deep scepticism that Labour will deliver on building housing.”

Mr Khan celebrated in May last year when he exceeded the Government’s target of 116,000 affordable homes being started in the capital between 2016 and 2023.

Outside of London, the target was not hit by the Government’s housing agency, Homes England – as only 126,800 affordable starts were recorded by the end of March 2023. The England-wide target, excluding London, was 134,000.

Homes England blamed former PM Liz Truss’s ‘mini-budget’, claiming it had “evaporated” its contingencies.

In more recent months however, London has seen the lowest number of homes started of any English region, amidst a nation-wide downturn in house-building.

In the three months from October to December 2023, a record low of just 580 new homes, of all types, was started in London, according to “provisional” Government data.

A record low was also in the South East region of England (2,720 homes), with relatively low figures in other parts of the country too, but nowhere building less than in London.

Mr Khan said this was partly due to lingering uncertainty at the time over how the Government would be applying incoming fire safety rules, which would require all tall buildings to have second staircases.

With London having more tall buildings than other regions, he argued that the capital had been particularly hard hit by the lack of certainty over the technical requirements of the new rules – for example, whether the two staircases would need to be entirely separate or whether they can be contained within the same building core.

By March this year, Mr Khan said that at least 38,000 homes in the capital were being ‘stalled’ by this lack of certainty, though the relevant guidance has now been published.

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