Renter advocates accuse landlords of ‘holding parliament hostage’ with threat of mass sell-up 

Tenant groups have hit out at lobbyists for landlords and estate agents ahead of the second reading of the Renters Reform Bill in the House of Lords today. 

The legislation passed through its final reading in the House of Commons last month after being watered down to satisfy backbench Conservative MPs and landlords.  

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The legislation will be debated today in the House of Lords

In its initial form, Michael Gove’s much-delayed legislation would have put an end to Section 21, which gave landlords the right to evict tenants without any reason, but this provision will now be indefinitely delayed until a review of the courts system is carried out.  

Another amendment, which would impose a four-month protected period before which tenants can give notice to leave, was also passed, although exemptions for the death of a tenant or victims of domestic violence were agreed after objections from MPs and charities. 

As the bill moves through the Lords, lobbyists are seeking to further amend the legislation.

Propertymark, which represents estate agents, has called for changes to retain fixed term tenancies “when it is beneficial for all parties involved” and for a review of property taxes on investment in the private rented sector. 

Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark said: “With the removal of fixed term tenancies still a concern and open ended tenancies reducing the certainty for agents and landlords the big question is how do we encourage landlords to stay in the Private Rented Sector?” 

The chief executive of Generation Rent, which represents tenants, accused lobbyists using the threat of landlords exiting the sector to weaken renters’ rights. 

“Landlord lobby groups have taken to quoting Generation Rent’s concern that ‘Landlords selling properties is a leading cause of homelessness’, and are cynically using this to hold parliament hostage to the idea that they will sell up over even the smallest strengthening of tenants’ rights,” said Ben Twomey, chief executive of Generation Rent. 

Twomey’s comment appeared to refer to a statement released by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), which, citing Generation Rent, claimed that landlords selling properties represented the biggest threat to renters.  

The NRLA, citing government data, said 45% of households eligible for support from councils to prevent homelessness following the end of a private rented tenancy agreement needed help because their landlord planned to sell the property in the second half of 2023.   

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said the figures were evidence that the Lords should not attempt to reverse amendments to the bill made in the Commons.  

“As Peers debate the Renters (Reform) Bill, it is vital that it works for landlords as well as tenants,” he said. 

“As it stands it would achieve this balance. We are calling on Peers to support the Bill to give the sector certainty about the future.   

>> Read more: Nearly half of older private renters worry about debt, says NHF

>> Read more: Rent caps could have ‘unintended consequences’ and lead to landlords leaving the market, CIH Cymru says 

Twomey contested the NRLA’s characterisation of the threat of landlords selling up, saying: “Long term, if landlords sell up it makes little difference to the housing market. Bricks and mortar do not sink into the ground, and the home could be bought by another landlord, a first-time buyer or even repurposed for social housing.  

“There will always be some landlords wanting to sell, for example because they are retiring or because their mortgages have become too costly. 
“The short-term issue is that tenants have an appalling lack of protection when landlords choose to sell up – even under the new Renters (Reform) Bill as proposed, tenants would only have two months’ notice when evicted for this reason.  

“Landlord groups won’t lift a finger to improve this position for tenants, while using the risk of homelessness to demand their own concessions from government. 
“That is why the government should incentivise homes being sold with sitting tenants, or to them if they can afford to buy.  

“They should also ban evictions based on sales for the first two years of a tenancy. Meanwhile, relocation relief should be offered if renters are evicted through no fault of their own, so that they do not need to pay the final two months’ rent while they save and look for a new home.”