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BLOG: Hit or miss - how will the long-awaited Renters' Reform Bill be received?

sean hooker renting reform

In the first in a series of blogs for LandlordZONE on rental reform, Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, shares his thoughts on yet another delay to the Renter'�s Reform Bill and whether the sector could still have a chance to steer the process.

Long and winding road

Does anyone remember the Aesop fable, 'The boy who cried wolf?'� Well, I am beginning to feel this is me when it comes to the Government'�s announcements of reforms in the rental sector.

The banner, 'Coming Soon'� is now well worn and in the last few weeks we have been confronted by contradictory statements by ministers on what season we should expect the Bill to finally roll off the press.

We knew the proposed legislation was promised this parliamentary session, but as this has been extended till next autumn this led to speculation that the pressures on the parliamentary timetable could delay the introduction of the legislation further.

This was hinted at by the current minister, tasked with delivery of the Bill, Rachel Mclean, who took over the portfolio from Felicity Buchan in an internal job swap in DLUHC.

This did not stop head honcho Gove telling Laura Kuenssberg at the end of March that everything was on track for a D-Day of a couple of months.

Mayday Mayday!

Easter has come and gone, the crescent moon has been spotted over Mecca, so Eid Mubarak and now we enter the merry month of May with the lesser spotted Renter'�s Reform Bill still nowhere to be seen.

With three bank holidays this month, one of course for the King'�s Coronation, this would always mean very little time to dot the Is and cross the Ts, if the legislation is to start wending through the parliamentary process. So it was always tentative that the timetable would be met.

And then hope!

A confirmation came that the Bill will be laid the week after the King'�s Coronation. Of course, off the back of this, it was all hands to the pump. Teams were lined up to start looking at the publication in minute forensic detail, blogs, podcasts and webinars planned and spokespersons briefed to be available.

Hopes dashed

The week before the Coronation Goodlord published my latest blog in which I asked, where was the Renter'�s Reform Bill? Then as explained above, within a couple of days the Government announces that it is due the week after, so we change the blog to reflect that.

I then wake up on the Wednesday, after rumours abounded the day before, to find the introduction has been postponed because of 'procedural issues'�. What this means, who knows!

Some commentators are saying that, due to concerns among back-benchers on the Government side, parts of the Bill are going back to the drawing board (it evidently did not get a good reception at the pre-screening) and meanwhile the opposition were having a field day.

Stand down the troops. But stay on high alert! Goodlord changed my blog once again. What a Hokey Cokey.

One last chance

So, we are now waiting for a new date for the Bill, and whilst I have been flummoxed on predictions every time previously, the First Reading of the Bill will take place very shortly.

It has to be because Parliament goes into recess and rises for Whitsun on 23 May, not returning until 5 June and thereafter it is the short summer session before the House rises again on 20 July.

I therefore believe the political pressure will be mounting to get the Bill out before the end of May and, given that the First Reading literally take a few minutes, start cracking on with the graft on the Bill when MPs return. Yes, we are close but still no cigar.

Subject to change

What I also know, however, from my communications with the civil servants (no spoilers), is that they are hopeful that as the 'heavy lifting'� has been done, cumulating with the White Paper, the subsequent round tables and other consultations, the passage of the Bill should be straight forward and not contentious, however we have heard that all before.

Even as recent as mid-April, the meetings with the stakeholders were still going on with leading industry figures still expressing concern. So, what the final director'�s cut of the blockbuster will look like is still to be determined and of course that is before MPs get their hands on it.

We can also surmise that a good part of the proposals will not be fully fledged and therefore will be light on details within the Bill, with enabling powers granted to the Government to work on the changes further and introduce them later through secondary legislation.

There is even a suggestion that 'helpful'� amendments will be introduced during the legislative process, giving the department more time to firm up the proposals and put more flesh on the bones.

All that's needed is the green light and for the Government to realise that, as American President Teddy Roosevelt wisely exclaimed, 'Knowing what'�s right, doesn'�t mean much unless you do what'�s right".


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