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Renters’ Reform Bill: Inside the rebellion over new renting laws led by Tory landlords

By David Parsley - May 10, 2023

Some Tory MPs believe the party has adopted Jeremy Corbyn's housing policies as one backbencher tells i there are up to 30 rebels considering voting against the bill if concessions are not given to landlords

The Government is facing a rebellion against its Renters’ Reform Bill from Conservative backbenchers, with one accusing Rishi Sunak of adopting the housing policies of Jeremy Corbyn.

It is understood that many of the Tory MPs opposing the bill, which is due to come before MPs later this month, are also residential landlords who would be hit by the policy to end “no-fault” evictions.

Among those considering voting against the Government are believed to include high profile Tories such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, who lists rental income from properties in Somerset and London among his entries in Parliament’s Register of Members’ Interests.

Kevin Hollinrake, the former chairman of national estate agency chain Hunters, is also thought to be a potential rebel.

The Government’s long-awaited reform of private renting will finally be introduced to Parliament as the Renters’ Reform Bill.

It is understood Tory critics of the bill, which was due to come before MPs on Thursday before being delayed, will claim it is not compatible with the Government’s axing of housing targets to build 300,000 new homes a year.

One prominent Tory backbencher told i: “At the moment we have a government that’s adopting all Jeremy Corbyn housing policies except we’re not building any more homes.

“Why should landlords be forced to accept that market forces don’t apply to them when we’re not committed to building more homes to ease prices.

“It’s not the fault of landlords that the price of renting is going up. It’s the fault of not enough homes being available to either buy or rent.

“Costs of being a landlord are much higher now, so why shouldn’t landlords be able to charge more and rent their properties to people at the market rate to cover their increased costs?”

Another potential Conservative rebel claimed that up to 30 of his colleagues were prepared to vote against the bill, with another 20 “looking to abstain at least”.

The MP, who also owns a number of rental properties, added: “There is a significant number that have issues with the bill and I remain sceptical about it. The best way to bring rents down is to build more homes and make it easier for people to get on the housing ladder.

“We now understand the bill may have been delayed, and some of us are hopeful that this means Michael [Gove] is willing to listen to concerns among people like me.

“I’m not entirely sure why it’s been delayed, but whatever the reason we now have a chance to ensure the bill does not introduce overburdensome restrictions on landlords, who are key in any housing market.

“What is important is that the Government comes up with a full plan for housing and, as it stands, it not clear how this bill solves much at all. In fact, it probably causes more problems by putting off landlords from staying with the sector.”

A third Tory landlord said he also had issues with the bill, but had not decided whether to join any rebellion against it.

“Punishing landlords is not going to increase the stock of rental housing,” he said. “Indeed, it is more likely to reduce it as landlords sell up.

“I do have a an interest in this topic, of course, but anyone who is a landlord will understand the market more than someone who is not.”

However, another Tory backbencher said the bill “would pass without too much fuss”.

A rebellion any larger than 32 would result in the Government relying on votes from opposition parties to avoid defeat at the bill’s first hurdle.

The bill, which former Prime Minister Liz Truss planned to shelve during her short residence in No 10, was first announced by Theresa May in 2019 and formed part of Boris Johnson’s general election manifesto in December of the same year.

Housing secretary Michael Gove is now attempting to implement the policy, which will become the first major shakeup of private renting since the 1988 Housing Act deregulated this part of the housing market in favour of private landlords by introducing the “no-fault” evictions and doing away with rent controls.

Section 21 evictions currently allow private landlords to repossess their properties from assured shorthold tenants without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant.

The bill has the support of No 10 amid concerns from some Tory MPs over whether landlords will still be able to evict tenants for antisocial behaviour or rent arrears.

Despite the backlash from some on Government benches, Mr Gove is believed to be confident he can fend off a major rebellion.

The Tory landlords

There is one good reason why some Conservative MPs may want to vote against their own Government’s Renters’ Reform Bill. It could hit them in the pocket.

The current right for landlords to evict tenants for whatever reason they wish allows them to sell up or sign up new tenants at higher rents whenever they want.

According to research from Transparency International UK 143 out of a total 363 Conservative MPs make money renting their land and property portfolios.

Among their number are five Cabinet members – Lucy Frazer, Jeremy Hunt, Suella Braverman, Alex Chalk and Gillian Keegan.

And there are many more on the back benches.

According to Parliament Register of Members’ Interests, former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg rents out property in Somerset and London, while the former chancellor and health secretary Sajid Javid who rents out a home in Bristol and two in London.

Former trade secretary Liam Fox rents out a home in south London, while fellow Tory Kevin Hollinrake has a share in five residential properties in York.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown is another Tory landlord, with five properties in London.

It’s not just Conservative MPs that enjoy the benefits of land and property ownership, although they do account for more than two thirds of all landlord MPs. In total, there are 212 out of 650 MPs that have property interests. As well as the 143 Tory MPs, Labour has 46 landlords, while the Liberal Democrats have five.

Research from Transparency International UK found that 143 Conservative MPs hold property interests. Around 50 of those hold Government posts and are unlikely to defy the whip on the bill.

But among some of the remaining Tory landlords there is unease about the policy.

There is believed to be a particular concern over the bill among MPs on the right of the party, which include hardline Brexiteer MPs like Mr Rees-Mogg, Liam Fox, Adam Holloway, Craig Mackinlay, Nigel Mills and Sir Bill Wiggin. All have declared to Parliament that they have a £100,000-plus land and property portfolio resulting in an annual income of £10,000 or more.

Steve Goodrich, head of research investigations at Transparency International UK, said: “Our research has found how property interests permeate our political system.

“With many MPs also being landlords, there’s certainly a risk that their personal affairs conflict with their responsibility to seek safer, more secure, and affordable housing for their constituents. Whenever parliamentarians are caught between their private and public duties, they’re supposed to selflessly put aside their vested interests for the common good.”

Investment Synergy - with a ´Rebel Yell´ - cried those with vested interests.... Lets wait and see.

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