Blackburn MP Kate Hollern writes her fortnightly column for the Lancashire Telegraph

After four years of the government dragging its feet, I welcomed the long-awaited second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill in the Commons last week. It passed this stage unopposed, and will now go on to be scrutinised in depth by a cross-party committee.

The Bill had its first reading in May. On the face of it, it has huge potential to improve the security and stability of the private rented sector, and help deliver a fairer deal for millions of people across the country.

It promises to introduce a range of reforms to achieve this. These include abolishing section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, banning assured fixed-term tenancies, reforming possession grounds, introducing a new process for implementing annual rent increases, creating a new ombudsman that all private landlords must join, establishing a property portal database, creating a duty for landlords to provide terms of tenancy agreements to tenants, and ensuring the right for tenants to request to keep a pet.

However, having followed the debate at second reading, I fear that many of these promises may not materialise.

The government has announced that the ban on no-fault evictions in England will be indefinitely delayed until after the court system is reformed.

This is a deeply concerning development given that, since the government first pledged to put an end to these types of evictions in 2019, more than 70,000 households have been evicted and threatened with homelessness. In reality, these reforms may take years to complete, during which time thousands more households could be affected.

Much more needs to be done to ensure that renters are properly protected. This Bill only scratches the surface to fix the housing emergency.

On the Tories’ watch, mortgage bills and rents are soaring, fewer people are able to buy their own home and over a million people are stuck on social housing waiting lists.

The past year has seen the biggest rise in rents since records began, forcing private renters to fork out huge proportions of their income on living costs, and this Bill does nothing to address the cost of renting.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister's latest U-turn on forcing landlords to make homes more energy efficient will further condemn millions of tenants to soaring energy bills.

The current average rent for a two-bed property in Blackburn is about £695. For a three-bed, it’s approximately £832.

In 2019, average rents were less than £500. Standard practice requires a deposit equivalent to a month’s rent, some rent to be paid in advance, plus estate agent fees.

This could see renters in the private sector in my constituency face on average a minimum upfront payment of above £1,590 for a two-bed property, or £1,864 for a three-bed property. The housing market is broken.

At the height of a cost-of-living crisis, tenants have never been so exposed and desperately in need of action by the government to establish a fairer, more secure, and more affordable private rented sector.

Labour has made it clear it will be pushing for measures that go beyond those already in the Renters (Reform) Bill, particularly on an expansion of rent repayment orders; amending possession grounds to protect tenants against ‘no fault’ evictions; and the outlawing of blanket bans on landlords accepting tenants with children or who are in receipt of benefits.

Tenants are paying the price for the government’s inaction. A Labour government would seek to strengthen protections for private renters, so that they finally get the long-term security and better rights and conditions they deserve.

I will be carefully following the Bill’s progression through both Houses.