Ban on no-fault evictions may face long delays amid fears of Tory rebellion

A government pledge to ban no-fault evictions could face long delays after Michael Gove told his backbenchers he would not enact the policy until courts have been reformed.

A promise to outlaw Section 21 evictions was made by the Conservatives in its 2019 manifesto – although the plan was only confirmed in May this year – and it will form part of the government’s Renters Reform Bill when it returns to the Commons this afternoon.

However, there has been disquiet amongst some Tory MPs over the move, which will stop landlords taking back possession of a property from tenants without giving a reason, with reports suggesting those who own properties themselves see the measure as “un-Conservative” and “anti-landlord”.

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Amid fears of a rebellion when the bill comes to a vote, Mr Gove wrote to backbenchers earlier this month in what appears to be an attempt to ease their concerns.

In the letter, seen by Sky News, the housing secretary promised to “reform the courts before we abolish Section 21” – adding: “While over 99% of tenancies end without involving the courts, a fast and efficient court system is critical to making sure the new system works in practice. This remains a top priority for both my department and the Ministry of Justice.

“I can confirm that implementation of the new system will not take place until we judge sufficient progress has been made to improve the courts. That means we will not proceed with the abolition of Section 21 until reforms to the justice system are in place.”

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The “reforms” in the letter include digitising more of the courts’ processes, exploring the prioritisation of certain cases – such as anti-social behaviour – and improving bailiff recruitment and retention.

“While it is critical for the legislation to provide better quality accommodation for renters, we must ensure landlords retain their right to swiftly get their properties back when they need to,” Mr Gove added.

But Labour has dubbed it a “grubby deal” with Tory MPs that will see the planned ban “kicked into the long grass”.

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The party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “The government plans to act as judge and jury in deciding when the courts have been sufficiently improved, meaning their manifesto pledge will likely not be met before the next election.

“This comes at a heavy price for renters who have been let down for too long already. Tens of thousands more families who the government promised to protect, now face the prospect of being threatened with homelessness or kicked out of their homes by bailiffs.”

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A source close to Mr Gove defended the decision, claiming the move was actually a recommendation from “the Labour-chaired select committee”.

But the Liberal Democrats have called on all Tory MPs who are landlords – a number they put at 68 – to reveal if they have ever used a Section 21 notice against their tenants “in order to have greater transparency over why they may oppose the ban on them”.

The party’s housing spokesperson, Helen Morgan, said: “It is not right that those thwarting this legislation do not have to make clear why they have such a keen personal interest in stopping it becoming law.

“Any MP who has ever used a Section 21 notice needs to make that clear to the House and to the public. It would frankly be insulting to all those affected by the delay of this important piece of legislation to not know the true motivations of why so many Conservative MPs oppose the ban.”

Sky News has contacted the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for a response.