The Post-Election PRS

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The Post-Election PRS

With the general election being called the Renters (Reform) Bill has been lost. It cannot be revived and any new government will need to start again from scratch. Inevitably this has people wondering what the PRS will look like under any new government. These are my thoughts, I stress that they are opinions only and not based on any commitments or statements by politicians or advisors in either party.

If the Conservative party was to be returned to power then it is likely to be on a considerably lower majority. Given the number of MPs that have stood down it is hard to say what a new Conservative government might look like but it probable that a more classically Conservative tendency will be stronger. This grouping is likely to shy away from telling landlords, or anyone, what they can do with their own land. Given the strong backbench rebellion against the RRB and the fact that Michael Gove, its chief architect, is standing down I would be surprised if a new Conservative government exhibited any interest at all in repeating what it would see as the mistake of the RRB. They are far more likely to move away from PRS reform and look at housebuilding stimulus instead. From that perspective landlords could expect a returned Conservative government to leave them well alone and not substantially alter the existing legislative position. That said I would not anticipate much in the way of tax breaks either so it would be very much continuing with the status quo, however good or bad that may be. In that scenario I would expect much more complex litigation in relation to possession claims and tenant rights as existing gaps and uncertainties in the law are pressed to their fullest.

It is of course much more likely, at least on current polling, that the Labour party forms the next government. That being the case they have previously said they will end s21 within the first 100 days of taking office. I would not see their new recent report on the PRS as a strong guide to their plans given that no shadow ministers were prepared to attend its launch or speak in support of it. Unless they simply pick up some version of the RRB and rush it through Parliament I do not see that working. In fact, even that seems unlikely. The existing bill text can be used but it will have to go through all its Parliamentary states again, from scratch. That takes time. In addition, I doubt that Labour would want to use the existing text. They have their own views about the PRS and would want to incorporate new ideas within the Bill, agent regulation being an obvious example. That needs drafting time and, realistically, a consultation would be desirable first as well. Further, the timing of the election leans against much happening in Parliament initially. Any new administration needs some time to understand the situation they find themselves in, especially if they have been out of power for over ten years. At the same time Parliament has a summer recess to contend with, followed by the short return prior to party conference recess. A new government might look to shorten summer recess but they can only do so to a certain degree and party conferences will have to happen regardless.

The other key point to remember is that the House of Lords is controlled by the Conservatives. An outgoing Conservative administration is likely to seek to cement that control. While the Lords cannot legitimately block a manifesto commitment They can delay one. Given that Conservative peers were perfectly willing to delay a Bill promoted by their own party, I doubt they will have any qualms about doing so to a Labour administration. So a new Labour government will have to compromise to some extent to get their legislative programme moving. They are also likely to focus in building social housing and other house building stimuli, some of which can be done without legislation.

Elections are always a period of uncertainty. This is even more the case when the lead up to the election has seen contested legislation being pressed through Parliament. And even more still when the election is called unexpectedly and legislation is unceremoniously dumped. It will be interesting to see the manifesto commitments of both parties and where they stand on housing.

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