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Section 21: Vulnerable will be hit by squeeze on the rental market

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

Vulnerable tenants at higher risk of rent arrears will be hit hardest by plans to change the way landlords can repossess properties.

According to one of the largest ever non-government surveys of landlords and agents 84% said that plans to scrap Section 21, ‘no explanation’ repossessions would make them “more selective” about the tenants they rent to.

The RLA, which conducted the survey has warned that this means that landlords would be less likely to rent to those considered to be of higher risk of rent arrears or causing damage to a property, such as tenants with pets. 

Landlords would be concerned that if problems emerged they would not be able to swiftly regain possession.

Una, a landlord in Leeds, told the RLA: “If Section 21 were to go I would only rent to professionals because I don’t want to be left in a situation where a tenant is in my property who cannot afford to pay the rent.”

The research also refutes the argument that many Section 21 notices are used for no reason.


Of those landlords who had used this route to repossess properties:

  • 84% had used it because of tenant rent arrears, 
  • 56% had used it because of damage to a property
  • 51% had used it because of anti-social behaviour

In fact, rather than landlords seeking to evict tenants by this route 26% said that they had served a Section 21 notice at the tenant’s request – to enable them to seek social housing to avoid them being classed as intentionally homeless. 

At present, landlords can repossess properties using two routes:

Section 21 enables a landlord to regain possession at the end of a tenancy and requires two months’ notice to be given but without providing a reason.

Under Section 8, landlord can repossess a property under a number of set grounds including rent arrears and anti-social behaviour. 


The problem facing landlords is that the Section 8 process can take a long time during which a problem tenant may not be paying rent or could potentially be causing a nuisance to other tenants or neighbours. 

Many report dissatisfaction with the courts, citing numerous delays and problems with regaining possession from tenants for anti-social behaviour or rent arrears.

It currently takes an average of over five months from a landlord applying to court for a property to be returned to them. 

The government plans to consult on proposals to scrap Section 21 repossessions in favour of an as of yet undefined system.


David Smith, RLA policy director said: “While no landlords should ever abuse the system, it is only right and fair that they can repossess properties swiftly and with certainty in legitimate circumstances.

“At present, only Section 21 provides this certainty. If the government is to get rid of it, landlords should have the same level of confidence and certainty about repossessing properties in cases such as rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell the property. 

“Without such confidence landlords will simply leave the market, making it more difficult for the growing number of people looking for to find a home to rent. 

“Secure tenancies will mean nothing without the homes to rent being there in the first place.” 

Read more: 

  • Since the announcement was made the RLA has worked tirelessly to highlight the impact the changes will have on landlords and the knock-on effect on tenants, with appearances on BBC, ITV and Sky News and coverage in all major national newspapers.
  • Read a blog by RLA policy director David Smith on how axing Section 21 does not mean homes for all here.
  • In the wake of the announcement Housing Minister Heather Wheeler wrote exclusively for RLA magazine Residential Property Investor, vowing to work with the association to develop a possession process that works for all. Read what she had to say here.
  • The government has yet to publish its consultation on the new repossession process, but keep an eye out here and on our social media channels @RLA_News, Facebook and LinkedIn for all the latest news.
  • The RLA is urging landlords to write to their local MP about the controversial proposals to abolish Section 21. The association has now written a template letter which landlords can send to their local MP at the click of a button, on the MY RLA platform.  There is also a section for landlords to add their own experience of the possession process.

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.

1 Comment

  • …… interesting that i’m using it as a type of insurance…. making me feel more confident in renting to a good-til-now tenant who is a big risk re potentially being able to continue to pay the full rent on time, even with housing benefit. Without Section 21 I’d be far more fearful. With it, I am pleased to continue her tenancy without the huge worry of being in large debt myself, especially with a mortgage on the property.

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