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Gove promises end to no-fault evictions by next election

Pa
Monday, Feb 12, 2024

LONDON: Housing Secretary Michael Gove has insisted the Government will ban no-fault evictions before the general election later this year.

The Government first vowed to end these section 21 evictions – where a tenant can be evicted without reason – in 2019, but long-awaited rental reforms have not yet been passed.New figures this week showed a steep rise in repossessions after no-fault eviction orders in England, increasing by 49 per cent last year.

Mr Gove told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme that the Renters (Reform) Bill currently going through Parliament “ends section 21”.However, the Government last year said the abolition would not come in until reforms in the court system to ensure it is also a fair process for landlords.

This led to accusations ministers were deprioritising the issue, while charities and campaigners have demanded urgency on fulfilment of the pledge to ban section 21 no-fault evictions.Asked whether the practice will have ended by the time of a national vote, Mr Gove said: “We will have outlawed it and we will put the money into the courts in order to ensure that they can enforce it.”

The Cabinet minister said it is important to deal with the “abuse” of no-fault evictions.“There are a small minority of unscrupulous landlords who use the threat of eviction either to jack up rents or to silence people who are complaining about the quality of their homes,” he said.

Labour complained this week that the report stage of the Bill “was promised by early February, but it’s nowhere to be seen,” as Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt made no mention of the legislation when outlining business in Parliament.Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said on Sunday: “It is shocking that this Conservative Government has repeatedly chosen to delay their promised ban on no fault evictions.

“Michael Gove’s words will ring hollow for those who have waited for so long for this urgently needed reform.

“This Government has turned a blind eye to the housing crisis in this country, 16 housing ministers later, people are still facing the same problems.“Renters shouldn’t have to face losing their homes through no fault of their own any longer. Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove must stick to their promise before more and more families get caught up in these devastating consequences.”

Mr Gove was also challenged over the rising number of people living in temporary accommodation.He conceded that that is not acceptable in one of the world’s richest countries, but said he could not guarantee that the figure would be down before the election because of “significant” pressures.

He pointed to a growing population, not enough homes being built and a squeeze on mortgage finance when asked why the housing system is broken.When he claimed Labour was blocking measures to ease the housing crisis, Kuenssberg told him: “You’ve been in charge for 14 years. I think some people listening to you this morning might think it’s almost shameless to be pointing the finger at others for this.”

The Housing Secretary will this week announce planning reforms aimed at boosting housebuilding on inner-city brownfield sites, building on the long-term plan for housing he set out last year.Developers will be able to more quickly convert empty office blocks, department stores and commercial buildings into homes under the plans.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the changes will focus on already built-up areas to limit development sprawling out to the outskirts of villages or the green belt.Labour said the Government is reannouncing an old policy and that home approvals on brownfield sites have halved under Tory rule.

Mr Gove has also warned that young people shut out of the UK’s housing market could turn to authoritarianism, telling The Sunday Times: “If people think that markets are rigged and a democracy isn’t listening to them, then you get — and this is the worrying thing to me — an increasing number of young people saying, ‘I don’t believe in democracy, I don’t believe in markets.’”The Tory MP for Surrey Heath is lobbying Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to use the March 6 Budget to put more money into housing.

“I’m doing everything I can, I mean short of laying siege to his own home. Every day I send him a note or a message emphasising the importance of doing more to unlock housing supply.“And he gets it. So Jeremy Hunt is someone who absolutely appreciates the importance of supporting the next generation.”

Rishi Sunak’s Government last year dropped compulsory housing targets to ward off a potential backbench Tory rebellion.The Conservative manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes a year in England instead became advisory after construction repeatedly fell short.

But Mr Gove insisted it is a “misunderstanding” to assume the Government has dropped the target, telling Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips the ambition “absolutely, totally, 100 per cent” still exists.