Queen’s Speech to include long-awaited protections for tenants
New measures to protect vulnerable tenants in rental housing in England and Wales that were promised in the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto are expected to appear in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.
The 2019 manifesto committed the government to a “renters ‘reform bill” that would abolish section 21 orders, which enable landlords to throw out their tenants with eight-weeks’ notice without explaining why.
Scrapping the so-called “no fault” evictions has been a target for housing charities, such as Generation Rent and Shelter, which claim they leave renters in a precarious position since a government ban on evictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic was lifted.
The measures are expected to be included in the Queen’s Speech that sets out the government policy and legislative agenda for the next parliamentary session, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
Rather than a standalone renters’ bill, officials hope the legislation will be included in a broader “leveling-up bill” being put forward by Michael Gove, state secretary for leveling up, housing and communities.
The loss of private tenancy is the main cause of homelessness in England, according to the government, which pledged in 2019 that “private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without a good reason”.
In the same year, ministers launched a consultation into repealing section 21 of the housing act, but its suspension has been pushed back several times.
The move comes at a time when the cost of living crisis and rising rents have put financial pressure on tenants after the withdrawal of government support for employees and renters during the pandemic, which has left many more exposed.
According to property portal Rightmove, the average asking price for rents in London increased 14 per cent in the year to April, and more than 10 per cent in the rest of England.
Meanwhile, a report published last month by the House of Commons public accounts committee found that more than one in eight privately rented homes in England posed a serious threat to tenants’ health and safety.
Last week, civil society groups campaigning on behalf of renters wrote to the UK prime minister Boris Johnson urging him to bring forward the bill and address flaws in the growing private rental sector.
“With the rising cost of living, additional pressure is being placed on renters of all ages and backgrounds,” the groups wrote in the letter. “Rapidly rising rents are squeezing household budgets and pushing ordinary people further from the dream of home ownership.
“The end of the coronavirus act protections means that, until Section 21 is repealed, renting families live in fear that requests for repairs could be met with an eviction that uproots their lives and adds further financial strain,” they added.
The Queen’s Speech will announce about 20 pieces of legislation including an economic crime bill, financial services bill and a media bill.
However, some proposed reforms have been dropped, including a bill to change audit and corporate governance rules, and a competition bill to give statutory powers to the fledgling digital markets sector for devising codes of conduct for tech companies.