Law Society cynical about Renters Reform Bill delay

The Law Society has spoken out about delays to the Renters Reform Bill, with the government saying Section 21 evictions will only be abolished once issues with the slow-moving court system are resolved.

Law Society President Nick Emmerson said this doesn’t square with the events of this year, which suggest that reforming the courts isn’t high on the authorities’ list of priorities.

Emmerson said: “We are disappointed in the government’s decision to further delay the key reform in the Renters Reform Bill.

“A ban on ‘no-fault’ evictions is a critical step in reforming the rental market and strengthening renters’ rights.

“This delay is yet another consequence of the government’s longstanding failure to invest adequately in the justice system, including courts, judges and legal aid.

“The government claims they are delaying the implementation of the Bill to prioritise court reforms.

“However, in March 2023, the HM Courts & Tribunals Service decided to stop work on the very reform they are now saying is needed before they can proceed with the change.”

At the time the HMCTS wrote: “We’ll also be completing the reform of employment, immigration and social security and child support tribunals.

“We’ll integrate our new scheduling and listing tool with each of the reformed civil, family and tribunal case management systems, and continue to develop the Video Hearing Service.

“To complete these prioritised projects, we’ll pause digital reform work on adoption and possession for now.”

Laura Southgate, partner in the Property Disputes team at Cripps, summarised the challenges among landlords and tenants.

She said: “Despite the Bill yesterday having passed through a second reading in Parliament, renters will understandably be disappointed to hear that the abolition of no fault evictions will be delayed “until reforms to the justice system are in place”. But many landlords, who have questioned whether the courts can keep up with the proposed changes, will welcome the news.

“Landlords want certainty that if a tenant fails to comply with their tenancy agreement, for example by not paying rent, they would be able to repossess their property. A key factor in that is the reliability and efficiency of the court process for recovering possession. Unfortunately, however, the courts are vastly overstretched: possession claims and the following eviction process can take many months, sometimes more.

“While landlords are generally receptive to change and can see the benefit in offering tenants a greater degree of security, evidence suggests that smaller landlords in particular have been anxious about the Bill – with a significant increase in the number of Section 21 notices served in recent years.

“It’s important the government addresses this issue properly, to prevent legislation seeking to tackle the housing crisis from having the opposite effect: landlords leaving the sector and a greater shortage of housing.”