Is the UK Government at risk of serving up a double fault?

Update – 7 November 2023: The Renters (Reform) Bill

 King Charles has announced that the Renters (Reform) Bill will be carried over to this parliamentary session. However, this will not change the UK Government’s intention to delay the abolishment of Section 21 evictions (the Bill’s headline policy) until proposed reforms to the county court system have been enacted.

The Bill is currently at Committee stage where the other proposed reforms contained in the Bill and outlined in our article below will be assessed and debated. The National Residential Landlords Association considers that "significant alterations to the bill are likely". Including rental reforms in the King’s Speech indicates they remain a priority for the Government. However, in light of the proposed reforms to the county court system and the likely amendments to the Bill, it may be awhile before the Bill achieves royal assent.

The UK Government has announced that the ban on ‘no-fault’ evictions will be delayed until after a series of reforms to the current county court system have been enacted.

In 2019, The Renters Reform Bill (as it is now known) was put forward as part of the Conservatives’ election manifesto. The headline proposal was the end of residential landlords’ right to evict their tenants without giving a reason, under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (the so called ‘no fault eviction’). Some time passed (albeit the Government had more pressing concerns during 2020-2021) but matters appeared to be progressing this year. Significant interest was generated when the draft bill was finally presented for its first reading in the House of Commons, on 17 May 2023.

In addition to the headline grabbing policy of abolishing ‘no fault’ evictions, the Renters Reform Bill contains a number of other significant changes, including:

  • The removal of fixed term tenancies.
  • Limiting rent increases.
  • Banning rent reviews.
  • Limiting the exclusion of pets from rented premises.
  • Amending the grounds for landlords to obtain possession of their properties under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (which usually involves identifying a breach of the tenancy agreement by the tenant).

However, any hopes that the Renters Reform Bill might appear on the statute book in the near future appear to have been dashed by The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, speaking in the Commons on 23 October 2023.

In that speech, he informed Parliament of the Government’s intention to pause the Bill, reasoning that:

It is vital that we ensure that the courts system is reformed and that we have end-to-end digitisation.

What Mr Gove declined to do was give a timeframe for the necessary court reform, effectively leaving the Renters Reform Bill in limbo and Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 intact, for now.


Few people who have tried to obtain a residential possession order in the County Court would argue that reform is unnecessary, but there will be considerable debate as to whether it needed to come at the expense of the progression of the Renters Reform Bill.

The announcement will anger and disappoint residential tenants who were looking at the Bill as a means to increase their occupational security. Conversely, pausing the Bill is good news for landlords who rely on the flexibility of the Section 21 procedure to let their properties. However, the ongoing uncertainty over the future use of Section 21 notices is counterproductive for all concerned, particularly given the overarching issues with the proposed reforms that are yet to be addressed. With a UK general election looming sometime in 2024/2025, it is likely to be some time yet before we know whether the Renters Reform Bill will become law.

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Read other items in Commercial Brief - November 2023