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Landlords ‘holding parliament hostage’ over threat of selling up – as peers urged to ‘rescue’ Renters Reform Bill

Landlords have been accused of “holding parliament hostage” with the threat of selling up to stop tenants’ rights from being strengthened.

A fresh row erupted on the eve of the controversial Renters Reform Bill coming to the House of Lords for its second reading, as one landlord group warned of a supply crisis in the private sector.

Analysis of government data by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) found that in the last six months of 2023, 45% of people in need of homeless prevention support said the reason was because the property owner planned to sell.

This was more than twice as much as the next most common reason, which was landlords planning to re-let the property.

Separately, data from Rightmove found that 50,000 rental properties are needed to bring the supply of rental homes back to pre-pandemic levels.

The NRLA said landlords need “confidence to stay in the market” and warned peers against attempting to strengthen the reform bill to give renters more rights, after it was watered down by MPs in the Commons.

They said the data comes in the wake of concerns being raised by campaign group Generation Rent, who have warned that landlords selling up is a leading cause of homelessness.

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But Generation Rent accused the NRLA of “cynically” using their concerns “to hold parliament hostage to the idea that they will sell up over even the smallest strengthening of tenants’ rights”.

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One million renters forced to move

Ben Twomey, Chief Executive of Generation Rent, said: “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.”

‘Relocation relief required for renters’

Mr Twomey said the short-term issue is that “tenants have an appalling lack of protection when landlords choose to sell up”.

He called on ministers to incentivise homes being sold to existing tenants if they can afford to buy, or incentivise selling homes with sitting tenants so they can stay in the property if it changes ownership to a new landlord.

The campaign group also want landlords to be prevented from selling a property for two years after a tenancy has begun, and a relocation relief for renters evicted through no fault of their own so they don’t need to pay for the final two months rent while they look for a new home.

Why are landlords selling up?

The NRLA said there are various reasons for landlords selling up but the key issues are growing costs and uncertainty over the Renters Reform bill.

The legislation, intended to redress the power balance between renters and landlords, has been mired in delay and controversy with the government heavily criticised for diluting some of its flagship proposals, including the ban on no-fault evictions.

First promised by the Tories five years ago, the ban has been delayed indefinitely pending court reforms, in what has widely been seen as a concession to landlords.

Read More:
Almost one million renters given no-fault evictions since Tories promised to scrap them
More than 100 MPs earn over £10,000 a year as landlords

Peers urged to ‘rescue’ reform bill

The Renters Reform Coalition, which includes Generation Rent, has called on peers to “rescue this watered down bill”, saying it is a failure in its current form and “will preserve the central power imbalance at the root of why renting in England is in crisis”.

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The RCC want a package of reforms including the end of no-fault evictions, four months’ notice when they are evicted rather than two and limiting in-tenancy rent increases in line with inflation or wage growth.

As well as insecure tenancies, renters are facing soaring rents and poor conditions amid a wider housing crisis which at its heart is a problem of insufficient supply and spiralling affordability

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, acknowledged the wider problems and said that “all parties need to accept widespread calls for policies to boost supply in the private rented sector”.

He added: “Landlords selling up is the single biggest challenge renters face. The only answer is to ensure responsible landlords have the confidence to stay in the market and sustain tenancies.

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

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