Overnight speculation of a Cabinet reshuffle has yet again led to uncertainty over the Renters’ Reform Bill, pledging a radical shake-up of the private rental sector.
Last evening it was announced that in a confidence vote in Boris Johnson, some 211 were in favour of his remaining Prime Minister and Conservative leader, but with a higher-than-expected 148 saying they did not back him.
Just over 40 per cent of the Parliamentary Conservative Party are now against Johnson.
The Renters Reform Bill, and a White Paper on some specific provisions, have been in the offing for three years since the govrrnment first advocated the scrapping of Section 21 eviction powers, and greater rights for tenants over deposits, notice periods and other aspects of the rental process.
Yesterday the minister charged with steering through the Renters Reform Bill at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities voted for Boris Johnson in the Tories’ confidence vote.
Eddie Hughes - MP for Walsall North, and who was appointed to his junior ministerial role by Johnson - tweeted yesterday: “When Boris came to Bloxwich in April 2019 I saw first-hand the amazing connection he has with the public - like no other Conservative PM before him. 8 months later he delivered an 80 seat Conservative majority. #BackBoris” Hughes’ Twitter account was changed to remove the MP’s own photograph and replace it with a Back Boris badge.
Meanwhile another MP appointed to high office by Johnson - Hughes’ boss, Housing Secretary Michael Gove - also backed the Prime Minister on social media, tweeting words strikingly similar to other senior ministers: “I’ll be voting for Boris this evening. The PM got the big decisions right on Brexit and Covid. We need to focus now on defending Ukraine, driving levelling-up and generating growth. We need to move past this moment and unite behind Boris to meet these challenges.”
However, if there is a further Cabinet reshuffle as a result of the sizable opposition to Johnson expressed in the confidence vote, it is possible that the reform Bill and White Paper could undergo further delays.
Even if these are laid before Parliament shortly - with Johnson still in office - it is thought likely that they could take up to a year to go through the formal consultation processes and the slow route through Parliament itself. Some are speculating that could be longer than Johnson has in office if internal pressures continue within the Conservative party.
Before the overnight speculation of a delay, campaigning charity Shelter said it wanted the scrapping of Section 21 to be accelerated.
It claims 5,890 landlords in England started Section 21 eviction court proceedings against tenants between January and March 2022 – up 41 per cent compared to the same period in 2020 before the pandemic. Claims for eviction for other reasons by private landlords also increased, totalling 6,316 claims in the first quarter of 2022 – up by 11 per cent on the same period in 2020.
Overall 18,626 eviction claims were made to court by landlords between January and March 2022, up by 32 per cent on the previous quarter.
The government first committed to scrap Section 21 evictions in April 2019 and Shelter says that since then, nearly 230,000 private renters in England have been served with a formal eviction notice.
Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, says: “It’s alarming that as the living cost crisis rages more landlords are kicking tenants out of their homes. These are real people whose lives are being turned upside down and simply cannot afford to lose their homes right now. Every day our emergency helpline supports renters who are scrambling around trying to find another home after being slapped with a no-fault eviction. But soaring living costs mean many are struggling to stump up the cash for a house move they don’t want to make.
“While scrapping Section 21 evictions alone won’t solve the cost-of-living crisis for renters, it will at least give them some much needed security in their homes. The government promised renters three times that it will introduce a Renters’ Reform Bill to scrap unfair Section 21 no-fault evictions. Now, it must get the job done as every minute wasted puts another renter at risk.”
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