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Possession reforms dead on arrival say landlords

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

Government proposals to reform the way landlords can repossess properties will not work and threatens the supply of homes for rent, says the RLA.

In its response to the Government’s consultation on ending Section 21 repossessions, which closes on Saturday, the RLA argues that what is being proposed fails to give any guarantee that landlords would be able to swiftly regain possession of a property where they have a legitimate reason.

This may be when a tenant has deliberately not been paying rent for several weeks or where tenants are engaging in anti-social behaviour. Many landlords have to rely on the Section 21 powers to retake possession in such cases as the other provisions for doing so involve court action currently taking an average of over 22 weeks.

In the response, which you can read here, the RLA raises concerns that removing Section 21 repossessions will increase the workload on the courts as many more repossession cases would need to be heard by them and this would lead to even longer delays. The Government has so far provided no proposals to ensure the scale of improvements needed to the court system.

The Government’s proposals will also make it harder, and in some cases practically impossible, for private landlords to evict anti-social tenants who cause misery for their neighbours and fellow tenants. If landlords always have to prove that the legal ground for anti-social behaviour is met, it will mean tenants will be able to challenge a notice to evict. This would then need proof by those affected who may be reluctant considering they may have to continue living with, or close to, the perpetrator over several months before there is a court hearing.

Such uncertainty would inevitably lead landlords to become more risk averse and less likely to rent to those tenants seen to be of higher risk of rent arrears or causing damage to a property, such as those with pets.  The RLA’s largest ever survey of almost 6,400 landlords found that 84 per cent would be more selective in who they rented to for this reason.

The RLA argues that the consultation fails to properly consider measures to prevent tenancy breakdown from happening in the first place. Most notably, with RLA research showing that Universal Credit is itself a key cause of rent arrears, the consultation should have looked at ways to prevent this. This would include giving tenants the ability to choose to have the housing element paid directly to the landlord and ending the five week waiting period to receive the first Universal Credit payment. Further work should also be undertaken to develop rent guarantee schemes.

With warnings that rents are expected to rise as a result of the demand for rented housing outstripping supply, the uncertainty created by the Government proposals will serve only to make good landlords less likely to provide the homes to rent that are needed. This will hit prospective tenants as it becomes even harder to find a suitable place to live.

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

          “The system for repossessing properties should be fair to both tenants and landlords. The Government’s plans do not achieve this.

“The Ministry of Justice’s failure to properly engage with the process and provide clear and detailed proposals to improve the court system is especially disappointing. Tenants and landlords need assurance that in legitimate circumstances they will not be subjected to long and stressful legal proceedings in repossession cases. Without this and other changes the Government’s plans to scrap Section 21 will just make life more difficult for tenants.”

Landlords- have your say on possession reform

With only days to go until the consultation on axing Section 21 closes, the RLA has prepared a number of tools to assist members in making their opinions known to the government.

You can read the RLA’s response here.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.


  • It’s very true.getting rid of section 21 will result in far fewer homes to rent and tenants will have to show very good reference. Other tenants with a poor background will find it impossible to rent in private sector. I am a small landlord and when my flats become empty I will will sell them rather than taking a chance with no legal protection .

  • Abolishing section 21, ( likely to be popular with the general public who have not thought it through) will make an already very weak and ineffective system even worse. Landlords are unlikely to want to evict good tenants,it is their livelyhood, but bad tenants who are streetwise,know the law always works in their favour,and to evict them means long delays and time and expense for the landlord. Over the years,when i have taken bad tenants to court,the court has found in my favour,and has ordered tenants to pay,but they rarely do,and they have often walked away owing £2000 or more,with no penalties,even when ive use bailiffs,ive just wasted money for no benefit. The whole system needs overhaul,bad landlords should be punished,but so should bad tenants. Abolishing sec 21 is just a knee jerk reaction to a serious housing shortage

  • We are still owed over £6000 in rent arrears from a DSS tenant, who knew perfectly well what she was doing, stringing us along for ages, having chances to sort the claim out left, right and centre. In the end we had no choice but to serve a Section 21, as a section 8 would have been worse than useless – the behaviour of this tenant was completely in accordance with those who pay down their arrears at the last moment and force the landlord back to court to begin all over again – because this type of tenant has no intention of paying for staying, merely paying when forced into a corner. Meanwhile she and her entourage wrecked the flat, upset the other tenants and neighbours, and caused us to be almost repossessed by the mortgage lender ourselves. Bad tenants are the worst imaginable nightmare to a landlord.

  • Section 21 has to go for good.
    Landlords cannot use this to rid tenants.
    If you don’t like it then simply don’t rent out your property because you cannot afford the morgage yourself. It makes me sick these so called landlords cashing in on people’s misfortunes. All rent should be capped to the morgage monthly payment amounts and not bloody double or treble for greedy landlords.
    More protection is needed for the tenant and not the landlord FACT!

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