A heated dispute has erupted between senior Labour MP Clive Betts and Housing Secretary Michael Gove, underscoring a rift over the Renters Reform Bill and the handling of serial offender landlords in the private rental sector.
Betts, chair of the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee, has taken a firm stance, advocating for the confiscation of investment properties from repeat-offender landlords. In an interview with The Guardian, he proposed that councils should take control of these properties and allocate them to individuals on social housing waiting lists, signalling a robust deterrent against landlords who habitually flout regulations and exploit tenants.
Expressing concerns about the delayed ban on Section 21 eviction powers, Betts highlighted a climate of fear among tenants, preventing many from reporting disrepair due to eviction worries. He asserted that this delay might persist until after the next General Election.
Tensions between Betts and Gove escalated following Gove’s citation of the committee’s report during a House of Commons debate. Gove suggested that reforms in the Renters Reform Bill must await improvements in the justice system, a move that Betts vehemently opposed.
In a scathing letter to Gove, Betts accused the Housing Secretary of misrepresenting the committee’s recommendations and shifting blame for the delay in scrapping Section 21 onto the committee itself. He stressed that while the committee did caution about the importance of reforming the courts system to support tenancy reforms, it never suggested an indefinite delay in abolishing Section 21 as a solution.
The conflict underscores a deepening disagreement between Labour’s Betts and the government regarding the handling of landlord accountability and the Renters Reform Bill, leaving the future of tenancy reforms in a state of contention.