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Section 21 to go: Housing reforms risk hurting tenants

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

LANDLORDS are warning of “serious dangers” to the supply of rental housing for vulnerable tenants as a result of government plans to axe Section 21.

The Government is proposing a consultation on the abolition of Section 21, so called  ‘no fault’, repossessions in the private rented sector in favour of improving the court system to ensure landlords can more speedily repossess properties through them in legitimate cases.

David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association said:

 “Whilst the RLA recognises the pressure being placed on Government for change, there are serious dangers of getting such reforms wrong.

“With the demand for private rented homes continuing to increase, we need the majority of good landlords to have confidence to invest in new homes. This means ensuring they can swiftly repossess properties for legitimate reasons such as rent arrears, tenant anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell them. This needs to happen before any moves are made to end Section 21.

“For all the talk of greater security for tenants, that will be nothing if the homes to rent are not there in the first place. We call on the government to act with caution.”

Government data shows that on average tenants live in their rental properties for over four years and that in 90 per cent of cases tenancies are ended by the tenant rather than the landlord.

The Residential Landlords Association is warning that at a time when the demand for rental homes is outstripping supply, especially among vulnerable tenants, the Government risks exacerbating the problem if it does not ensure that landlords have complete confidence that they can repossess properties swiftly for legitimate reasons. These include tenant rent arrears, tenants committing anti-social behaviour and landlords wanting to sell their properties.

With the Government’s own data showing that it takes over five months from a private landlord applying to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening, the RLA argues that it is vital that a reformed and improved court system is able to bed in and the grounds to repossess properties are properly improved before making changes to Section 21. This would follow the lead set in Scotland.

Research by Manchester Metropolitan University for the RLA has found that in a large majority of cases where tenants are asked to leave their properties under Section 21 notices there is a clear reason. Half of the notices are used where tenants have rent arrears, are committing anti-social behaviour or damage to the property. Other common reasons include the landlord needing to take back possession of a property for sale or refurbishment.  The report’s authors argue that this “raises questions” about whether the use of Section 21 notices can properly be described as ‘no fault’ evictions, as some have called them.

The RLA will shortly be consulting the landlord community to establish what measures would be needed to ensure they have confidence in the system before efforts are made to end Section 21 repossessions.

-Ends-

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.

16 Comments

  • I am seriously concerned about this proposal.It is imperative that there is a method that allows the landlord to legally evict a tenant.There are many instances where it is very important,
    For instance in a HMO, a tenant might be smoking (breaching the contract) ,using drugs, constantly leaving the communal areas in an awful state etc,The other tenants may get fed up and request that the landlord (after speaking and writing to the responsible tenant to no avail) issues notice or thay will leave.
    Although tenants are supposed to give notice they in reality can leave when they want as to persue them legally is too time consuming and expensive.
    A bad tenant can create “hell” not only for the landlord but others in the property and neighbours a well.
    Section 21 allows a certain amount of respect on all sides as no reason has to be given.
    However,there are rules dictating when and how it is served which protects the tenant which is right and proper.

  • What about landlords who intend to retire and live in the property, but not sell it.
    What provision will be made for owners wanting to live in their own property?

    • Yes, interesting question Barry Woodcock as we have a flat we have almost finished renovating, and have lived in for the last few years, but we want to move on and have a house with a garden for a a while before moving back to retire to our flat. We won’t want to sell it and depending on our state of health the exact time we’ll need it back isn’t predictable (Ground floor with level access and wide doors). It’s within yards of a uni so we were going to let to students, so could be a real issue if we can’t get them all to leave at the same point at the end of the academic year, or if we let to a family there could be a similar issue.

  • I as a landlord need to have the freedom to evict a tenant in the following cases;
    Non payment of rent,
    Anti social behaviour
    Need to take possession to carry out repairs or refurbishment.
    I need to sell the property.

    I currently rent approx 40 self contained units to very appreciative tenants who are very happy with the standard of accommodation.

    Without the freedom
    To gain possession of my property if required I will not hesitate to sell them and move out of this business.

  • To abolish section 21 is basically removing ownership of the house and handing it over to the tenants, section 21 gives the landlord the ability to take back their house if they come into financial difficulty once the agreed tenancy is over, there is no need to remove this other than the government want to get rid of more private landlords.

  • There are existing mechanisms for tenants with rent arrears or ASB issues, but they have due process, so it’s not surprising that some less scrupulous landlords will use S21 instead.

    Removing S21 and replacing it with a process that requires a landlord to 1) have a good reason, and 2) go through due process, will likely remove the more unscrupulous operators from the market (a term I hate to use, as we are talking about homes here). They will either sell their properties to new BTL landlords, or to people renting who want to buy. So a bit of a win for people looking for a home, and a slight dent for people simply looking for an investment vehicle.

    • And those who choose to go over to Airbnb will take property out of the rental market completely. Sharers will drop off as they often rent but would not commit to shared purchase. This has not been thought thro properly

  • Thank you to David Smith, quoted widely this morning, on the subject of the latest government assault on the landlord community, this time over Section 21, almost certain to further damage the PRS for all interested parties. Not content with presiding over the Right to Rent debacle, it seems lobbying endeavours have yet to strike the right note with Rt. Hon. James Brokenshire MP. There would still appear to be time, if the goal is legislation in August 2020, to potentially work and ensure that the woefully inadequate court system can be simplified, providing balance between the properly exercised rights of respectful, respected tenants and those of the home providing, professional landlord community.

    Moderated language by those areas of the print and online media, that suggest they are providing a service to professionals would certainly not go amiss.

    During my former career I had number of governmental briefs whilst occupying a board position within a national body. I would urge David Smith to reach out among the membership, to ascertain where additional expertise may lie, in order to bolster the lobbying abilities that will be required in the uncertain months ahead.

  • Thanks for this info.
    I have been renting residential property for 20+ years, I have 12 properties and have only had recourse to use section 21 eviction twice in all that time- both times because of serious rent arrears and anti social behaviour. Each time it was a huge worry and a long time with no income. If the government make landlords have even less security over their tenants – and their hard earned properties- I will be selling all my properties as they become vacant.
    As I am sure a lot of other owners will. A lot of us are retired so had the income to buy in the past – this section of landlords will die out with the prospect of less security and more worry over properties- just at a time when more rental properties are needed. If the government is not going to fund a social housing system they Must keep the private rental section healthy – and not bow to extremist headlines in the gutter press.

  • “The report’s authors argue that this “raises questions” about whether the use of Section 21 notices can properly be described as ‘no fault’ evictions, as some have called them.”

    Exactly, this highlights that this is yet another example self appointed such as Generation Rent using a minor/non issue in one area to impact on the whole rental sector which could well evaporate before their eyes.

  • This is a Marxist measure. There needs to be very clear flexibility for a landlord to take back possession of their house if they intend to live in it and the tenant does not want to move out or want to buy the house but the landlord does not want to sell.

  • In recent years the tenancies offered by social housing providers have dramatically change. They used to be for the life of the tenant and could even me passed on to a family member when the tenant died. Now new social housing tenants must serve a one year probationary lease and only provided there have been no negative issues is a five year lease is granted. This is renewed only provided the tenant has complied with the terms of the lease and no complaints have been recieved. As far as I am aware the right to pass a social housing tenancy on to a relative has been discontinued. What I fail to understand is why private landlords are to be obliged to offer endless tendencies without break clauses, when social housing providers have introduced them. It short solical housing providers can test & try before they commit themselves plus have defined assessment/review points but private landlords are to be denied these!!

  • Like many landlords I have regarded shorthold tenancies as a probationary period after which if all is well it rolls on into a statutory periodic tenancy. This is an essential trial period as references are no guarantee of a good tenant and circumstances can change.

    I am old enough to remember the introduction of shorthold tenancies. Prior to that a house sold with sitting tenant would only realise a fraction of its vacant possession price so there is a possible capital loss. The effect of removing shorthold tenancies can be devastating to a pensioner like myself who relies on the income and may be forced one day to sell to pay for a care home and who has a buy to let mortgage. The mortgage lender will not give a discount on the reduced value.

  • I became a landlord by accident, I let one house, this was on the death of my wife. When I could not sell the property letting it was the obvious answer. Now with the changes to the rules governing the private rental sector I’m reviewing my options. The house was supplementing my pension and provides an investment for long term care if I require it. Loosing S21 means I cannot recover my family home for myself or children. Tenants who become a problem will not be able to be removed with out a great deal of cost. I thought a lease was a contract between two parties and both had to abide by its terms and conditions. It seems this is not correct.

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