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Dowden slammed as ‘disingenuous’ over landlords' charter

Campaigners hit out as no-fault evictions pledge is watered down

RENTERS’ rights campaigners hit out at Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden today for being “disingenuous” in his assurance on when reforms to protect tenants’ rights would come into force.

The Renters (Reform) Bill had its final hearing in the Commons today, which concluded after the Morning Star went to print.

Earlier, Mr Dowden was standing in for Rishi Sunak at PMQs and was asked to give a date for when the long-promised ban on Section 21 evictions, which campaigners warn leads to homelessness, would come into force.

The Conservatives had vowed to ban no-fault evictions in 2019.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner accused the government of delaying justice for renters and instead having “caved in to vested interests” on the back benches.

Campaigners have previously warned that the Bill has been “watered down” through amendments and too many concessions have been made to “pro-landlord Conservative MPs.”

Speaking during PMQs, Ms Rayner said: “This week the housing minister said there is no solid date for banning no-fault evictions, the Housing Secretary [Michael Gove] now says it won’t happen before an election, so if he can give us a date, can he name it now?”

Mr Gove had told the BBC earlier that he “hopes” the Bill becomes law ahead of the general election, but that it was up to the House of Lords “to decide the rate of progress that we can make.”

Mr Dowden replied: “I can name the date for [Ms Rayner], today. It’s today that this house will be voting on it.”

But Renters Reform Coalition (RRC) campaign manager Tom Darling said: “Michael Gove U-turned this morning to say he couldn’t guarantee the end of no-fault evictions.

“The Deputy Prime Minister … knows that no-fault evictions won’t be abolished today, so it’s disingenuous for him to say the practice will end today.

“Renters facing these evictions up and down the country tomorrow, who have already been so badly let down by endless delays caused by Conservative landlord MPs, don’t deserve to have their hopes artificially raised yet again.”

Research by homelessness charity Shelter shows that 943,000 tenants have been served Section 21 notices since April 2019 — equivalent to more than 500 renters per day.

Nearly 85,000 of these households were put at risk of homelessness as a result.

Speaking in Commons during the hearing, Housing Minister Jacob Young said the government could not provide a date on which no-fault evictions would be abolished “because I can’t say until we’re confident that the county court system is ready.”

He told MPs in his opening remarks: “The Bill will abolish Section 21 and bring in new decency standards, giving England’s 11 million tenants more certainty of secure and healthy homes.”

But Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said that the Bill now “amounts to an indefinite delay to ban no-fault evictions.”

Intervening in Mr Young’s statement, Ms Lucas said: “The Secretary of State this morning had the brass neck to suggest that keeping his promise to outlaw no-fault evictions before the next election is now apparently down to the House of Lords to get on with it.

“Can the minister tell us which is most disingenuous?

“Is it the five years we’ve been waiting for this government to keep their promise, or is it the blatant concessions to the significant numbers of Conservative MPs sitting behind him who are landlords, who’ve been gifted what amounts to an indefinite delay to ban no-fault evictions?”

Labour’s shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook accused the government of “grubby political horse trading,” saying: “The damage that has been caused as a result of the discord on the government benches is significant.”

He said Labour would be supporting the Bill, but added: “It still contains, despite our best efforts in committee, numerous defects, deficiencies, omissions and loopholes that would allow the minority of disreputable landlords to exploit tenants and jeopardise their security of tenure.

“We remain firmly of the view that the Bill is not yet fit for purpose and that it must be strengthened to the benefit of renters.”

Tory MP Natalie Elphicke was among those saying they would vote against the Bill, calling it a “betrayal” of the government’s 2019 manifesto.

Ms Elphicke, who sits on the housing and communities committee, also said a new clause in the legislation could “indefinitely delay” the abolition of Section 21 no-fault evictions.

Committee chairman Clive Betts urged the government to “get on with” abolishing no-fault evictions, saying: “I think it’s disappointing today that we’re having to focus primarily on the government backpedalling of the timetable for the abolition of Section 21.”

Downing Street defended the government’s approach to the Bill, saying it “remains committed to striking the right balance between supporting renters and landlords.”


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