Michael Gove can't guarantee no-fault eviction ban before election

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove
[PA Media]

The housing secretary cannot guarantee "no-fault" evictions will be banned in England by the next general election.

The Conservatives first promised to end landlords' ability to evict tenants without needing a reason in 2019.

In February, Michael Gove told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg the practice would be "outlawed" by the next election.

But on the eve of the bill that could abolish such evictions returning to the Commons, he did not repeat the pledge.

Instead, Mr Gove said he "hopes" it becomes law but it was up to the House of Lords "to decide the rate of progress that we can make".

MPs will debate the Renters (Reform) Bill on Wednesday, after the government was forced to water down some of the planned protections for renters, including original promises to abolish no-fault - or Section 21 - evictions in England.

On Wednesday, MPs voted 287 to 144 in favour of the government plans for an indefinite delay to ending no-fault evictions while the effects of the new tenancy system on the county courts are assessed.

A Labour amendment to ensure the abolition of Section 21 evictions would come into force on royal assent was also defeated by 282 votes to 158.

The Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons and will now go to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

Some Conservative MPs had raised concerns they would be too burdensome on landlords.

In February, Mr Gove was asked by Laura Kuenssberg whether he could promise to have ended the practice of no-fault evictions for all renters by the election.

At the time, he said: "We will have outlawed it and we will have put the money into the courts in order to ensure they can enforce it."A

sked on Tuesday whether he could repeat his promise, Mr Gove said: "Everything depends on the House of Lords.

"My determination is to ensure that we get this bill on the statute book. But it's up to the Lords to decide the rate of progress that we can make.

"If opposition parties are supportive - and I believe that while they have some quibbles, they are supportive of the essential principle that we're bringing forward - then we can have Section 21 ended before the general election. That's the aim."

Mr Gove said he would continue to argue for ending no-fault evictions.

"It will be a judgement of the Lords as to how this bill progresses," he said.

"But I hope that we can get it on the statute book before the election."

Mr Gove defended the changes the government had made, saying it was a "balanced package".

"A healthy private rented sector with appropriate protection for tenants, but also appropriate rights for landlords as well is what this bill delivers," he said.

Under the bill, landlords would be able to evict tenants in England only under certain circumstances, including when they wished to sell the property or when they or a close family member wanted to move in.

But a number of campaign groups criticised the changes the government has made to the bill.

The Renters' Reform Coalition, a campaign group of 20 housing charities and organisations, said the bill in its current form "will be a failure" and won't deliver a fairer rental sector.

"The bill has been watered down again and again by the government, with several rounds of damaging concessions to backbench MPs that have fundamentally weakened it," a statement from the coalition said.

"The result of all the government's backtracking is that we have now have a bill that abolishes Section 21 in name only."

Labour said the no-fault eviction ban promised in the Tory manifesto was "collapsing under the weight of vested interests" and called for the plan to be implemented immediately.

Mr Gove rejected the criticism.

"What the bill does, is it comprehensively ends a practice of no-fault evictions," he said.

"It also ensures as a result that we do more to prevent homelessness.

"It also improves standards in the private rented sector and it also makes sure that those landlords who were dealing with anti-social tenants are in a stronger position to get rid of people who are causing a misery to their neighbours."

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, backed the bill as it stands, saying it delivers a "fair deal for tenants and responsible landlords" and called for the legislation to pass through Parliament "in the interests of certainty for the sector".

The government previously said a ban on no-fault evictions cannot be enacted until the court system is improved to deal with an anticipated rise in legal cases.

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