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Housing: No-fault Evictions

Volume 797: debated on Wednesday 15 May 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the timetable for the recently proposed consultation to end no fault evictions and how it will differ from the consultation Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector of July 2018.

My Lords, there was no widespread support for a fixed-term tenancy model. We concluded that the best way to introduce greater security was to remove Section 21 no-fault evictions, strengthen existing Section 8 eviction grounds and reform court processes. We want to collaborate with landlords and tenants to ensure that these reforms are introduced effectively. We expect to consult on our proposals over the summer.

I thank the noble Lord for that Answer but I would be grateful for more information on the timeframe for the legislation. This is indeed welcome news for the thousands of tenants who live with insecure short-term tenancies and the fear of eviction on a daily basis, but they need the change soon. Given that there will be opposition from landlords, what measures will the Government put in place to ensure that this excellent policy will be effective and immediate and not delayed or thwarted by the threat of rent hikes or the pulling of properties from the market?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her welcome for the proposal. There is certainly no intention to hang about with this: we want to consult, particularly on Section 8 and what the ground should be for ending tenancies. That is an important part of this. It has been widely welcomed, including by many landlord groups, in all fairness. Responsible landlords have nothing to fear from this; it is essentially about being fair to landlords and tenants.

My Lords, I declare my various housing interests in the register. I congratulate the Government on this important measure, giving much greater security of tenure to tenants and promising that landlords will have swifter processes when a tenant really is at fault. Does the Minister agree that one of the big gains from this will be that tenants will not be afeared to make complaints against landlords who are behaving badly? At the moment, people fear retaliatory evictions and are very often silent when they should stand up for their rights.

My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Lord on that point: the essence of what we propose is that this is right for responsible landlords and it is right by tenants, who indeed sometimes go in fear of making complaints because of the possibility of eviction. That concerns a very small number of landlords, but this will knock that into shape to ensure we have the fairness of which I spoke.

My Lords, in theory legal aid and advice is available for eviction matters, though in practice there seem to be deserts in legal advice on this area because there are not sufficient practitioners who engage with that side of the law. Will the Minister consult the Ministry of Justice to ensure more incentives for lawyers to provide the service needed by these people in very difficult situations?

My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with great experience in this area. He will be reassured by the fact that the reform will in many cases mean that people will not need to go to law, because the law will be absolutely clear and the activity will therefore cease. Our consultation will be wide and open for people to contribute. He will also know that we are looking at other procedures for speeding up, simplifying and streamlining the process, and that should help too.

Can the Minister assure us that the impact of the short lets for holidays will also be taken into consideration, to help these tenancies become longer rather than having them concealed and desperately affecting other people in the buildings?

My Lords, I had not anticipated a dimension for short-term tenancies—unwisely, perhaps—but the whole range of activity will be considered in the consultation to make sure that it is fair to everybody.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that since Scotland scrapped no-fault evictions over a year ago, ONS data suggests that rental inflation has remained lower, the private rented sector has remained stable, and the change has not had an adverse impact on homeless people? There was a time when a Conservative Government thought it was perfectly normal to implement a change in Scotland, see how it went and then do it in England. Why cannot we do that now for the tenants who so desperately need this?

My Lords, I thought the noble Baroness would be very grateful that, once the coalition Government had ended, we were able to do these things, looking at what was happening in Scotland and implementing it as effectively as we have. In all seriousness, it is often very helpful—as I and many know—to look at devolved experience and learn lessons from it. We have indeed looked at what is happening in Scotland. While we are not replicating it, there are certainly lessons to be learned.

My Lords, I hope any new legislation will make it possible for servicemen and others who need to go abroad as part of their jobs to be able when they come home to reclaim the houses they have let. I am afraid that a great many houses will not come on the market for letting if that is not made possible.

My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. That is why we have the consultation on Section 8. There are many instances in which it is totally appropriate for someone to be able to regain their property; he has just cited one. That is why we seek to do right by landlords in those sorts of situations.

My Lords, I will follow up on the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. While there does not appear to be an obvious link between short-term holiday lets and this proposal—which I welcome—we have seen before unintended consequences of the link between the two. It would be disastrous in many rural areas if it meant that houses currently let to local people were withdrawn from the market and used as holiday lets.

My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point but I fail to see the connection with this proposal. He is absolutely right about ensuring that the needs of local people are taken care of as regards housing supply and affordability, but that is not impacted by this provision. However, I am happy to engage with him further on that matter.

My Lords, what impact does the Minister think this very positive policy may have on the numbers of families living in hostel and bed-and-breakfast accommodation? What progress may be made in reducing the numbers of families living in such accommodation, the figures for which are at the highest levels since 2003?

My Lords, the noble Earl raises an important point about homelessness and people living in hostels. I do not see this as having a particular impact and if it does, it is a benign one, but it is probably very much at the margin of ensuring that people are much more secure in accommodation when previously they have not been.

Is there not a wider problem? The latest statistics indicate that the number of properties available to be rented is falling at a time when demand is pretty firm. Will these discussions address that problem? If not, there will only be a great shortage of housing for younger people who want to rent and be genuine tenants.

My Lords, my noble friend is right about the importance of ensuring a steady supply of housing in general but he referenced the rented sector in particular, which we have to be aware of. That is why this provision is so welcome, because it ensures security for tenants across the board where previously some have not had it, while doing right by landlords and ensuring that, where appropriate, they can regain premises that are let out.