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Private Rented Sector

Volume 742: debated on Monday 4 December 2023

I am delighted to announce that our Renters (Reform) Bill completed Committee stage in the House last week. Our ambitious and balanced reforms will deliver on our manifesto commitment to abolish section 21 evictions and to reform grounds for possession, so that landlords can recover their properties when they need to.

The Secretary of State moved with admirable speed after the death of Awaab Ishak to ensure that social landlords honour their obligations to tenants in terms of mould and safety, but those in private rented accommodation do not have that protection. Can the Minister tell the House, and the world, why private tenants are put at risk in that way?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the work that he did following the tragic and unnecessary death of Awaab Ishak. We have tabled an amendment to the Renters (Reform) Bill to expand the decent homes standard to the private rented sector for the first time. I look forward to working with him to ensure that the Bill is in as good a state as it can be when it leaves this House.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has been taking evidence about local government finances. In the past two years, expenditure on homelessness and temporary accommodation has increased by 50%. The reality is that section 21 notices are a prime driver of that. The Renters (Reform) Bill will abolish section 21, but the Government have not yet announced a timetable for the legislation’s implementation or the abolition. The Government have said that we need court reform. I completely agree, but how was that helped by the Chancellor’s announcing in the autumn statement a freeze of the budget of the Ministry of Justice for the whole of the next Parliament?

I can confirm to the Chair of the Select Committee that I met the relevant Minister in the Ministry of Justice just this morning to discuss that point. We are working at pace to ensure that the courts are ready for the biggest change in the private rented sector in over 30 years. The hon. Gentleman talked about local government funding. We are conducting a new burdens assessment for local government to ensure that any additional burdens that are placed on local government are funded properly.

In the festive spirit, I extend my sympathies to the Secretary of State, who seems to spend his time haunted by the ghost of Christmas past. In 2019, a Tory Prime Minister promised to ban no-fault evictions. Since then, households have been put at risk of homelessness because of a section 21 notice nearly 78,000 times. In 2017, the fifth predecessor of the Secretary of State pledged action to end the medieval practice of leasehold, but just last year another 207,000 homeowners became stuck in that expensive nightmare. All the while, the Secretary of State has been beavering away drawing up what can only be described as Alice in Wonderland legislation: a Bill to ban no-fault evictions that will not ban no-fault evictions, and a Bill to ban leasehold that will not ban leasehold. Is he too scared to stand up to his Back Benchers, or has he truly fallen down the rabbit hole?

I should remind the right hon. Lady that I am not the Secretary of State. Let me also remind her that the Renters (Reform) Bill is the biggest change to the private rented sector in 30 years—longer than I have been alive. We have to ensure that we get this right both for tenants and for the 2.4 million landlords in this country. She may be willing to brush aside the concerns of landlords and turn her back on what are often small businesses. We are not. We will deliver a Bill that protects renters and ensures a fair system for landlords.