MPs called for Section 21 evictions axed during a Parliamentary debate yesterday.
Karen Buck MP (Labour, Westminster North – Vice Chair of the APPG for the Private Rented Sector) who initiated the debate said the PRS has changed ‘beyond recognition’, and while claiming it is ‘absolutely essential’to recognise most landlords are good and responsible, said change was needed.
She said: “The fact is that if we get the balance right and remove no-fault from the equation, and if we concentrate on providing a means for landlords who legitimately need to recover their property for whatever reason and deal with some of their concerns about the operation of that system, is no reason on earth why people should regard that [ending Section 21 evictions] as unacceptable.”
Liz Twist MP (Labour, Blaydon – Member of the HCLG SelectCommittee) raised concerns about Section 21 disrupting family life, with Grahame Morris MP (Labour, Easington) supporting the abolition of Section 21, claiming: “We have a flawed system that completely lacks balance” and calling for action to “address the issue of tenants’ rights.”
Section 21, he argued, added to “a one-sided power imbalance, with landlords having practical rights while tenants have what are, in effect, unenforceable paper rights.”
Wera Hobhouse MP (Liberal Democrat, Bath – and MHCLG spokesperson said Section 21 evictions lock tenants “into situations where the landlord has total control, creating a culture of uncertainty whereby tenants are afraid to exercise their rights.”
She went on to say: “Section 21 evictions permanently tilt the balance of power towards landlords and cement a culture of fear, in which tenants are afraid to stand up for themselves. Given the threat of losing a cherished family home, unwanted financial pressure and the risk of homelessness, that cannot be surprising.”
Alex Chalk MP, Conservative, Cheltenham spoke up for landlords during the debate. While he agreed the Section 21 issue needs to be addressed he said: “in the overwhelming majority of cases, landlords behave appropriately and with a proper sense of their responsibility to their fellow citizens.”
He also warned reforms need to be balanced by the need not to restrict the supply of new housing.
Melanie Onn MP (Shadow Minister for the PRS) described Section 21 evictions as “unjust.”
She continued: “Giving landlords the power to play fast and loose with security of tenure creates a power imbalance, which unscrupulous landlords use to intimidate or exploit tenants and to get away with improper and often illegal practices.”
She said Labour would introduce a new system of evictions in England, with proper checks and balances to prevent abuse, adding: “We know that there are numerous valid reasons why a landlord needs to evict a tenant
“None of us wants to do away with a landlord’s right to evict bad tenants, sell their property or move back in, if need be, but it surely cannot be beyond our capabilities to draw up a new system that reflects that while protecting tenants. It is a case only of whether there is the will to do it.”
She continued: “It is easy to prove that a tenant is in rent arrears or has caused significant damage to a property, easy to prove that you are in the process of selling a rented property, and easy to prove that you have genuinely reclaimed a property for self-use and not to rent commercially to another tenant.
“So, simplifying section 8 and putting in a proper system that means landlords must give a valid reason for eviction—I say again—should not be beyond the means of the government. If we create a system that provides better checks and balances, there seems to be no reason at all to keep a no-fault eviction clause that causes so much hurt for thousands of tenants around the country.”
Heather Wheeler MP (Minister for the PRS) defended Section 21, but said the government has ‘yet to make any decisions’ on the issue.
She said: “Section 21 provisions provide an important guarantee to landlords that they will always be able to get their property back at the end of the tenancy.
“The flexibility for landlords and mortgage providers to recover their asset if they need to is crucial to retaining investment and supply in the sector, including the availability of buy-to-let mortgages.”
She said government will be outlining its next steps on longer tenancies “shortly” and is keen to understand concerns around Section 8 as part of the consultation on experiences of landlords and tenants of the court and tribunals system.
She told MPs: “We have not yet made any firm policy decisions on whether to legislate to alter the provisions set out in Section 21. We first want to consider carefully the responses to the call for evidence on user experience of the courts.”
To read the full transcript of the debate click here .