Government set for fight over Section 21 future

RLA welcomes consultation running full length but warns concerns will remain “unless and until” landlords get certainty.

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Government is set for a fight over the future of Section 21 – and the PRS is not going to give up easily.

The RLA has today (22nd July) said landlord concerns over the impending abolition of so-called no fault evictions are unchanged “unless and until” they are convinced any new system offers “confidence and certainty” over regaining possession of property.

In the meantime, the RLA will continue to engage with on-going government consultation over the abolition.

“We have engaged extensively with the government over these proposals, and we are pleased to see that many of our points have been taken on board,” said RLA policy director David Smith.

The RLA recently released research showing 84% of Section 21 notices issued were because of tenant rent arrears, 56% because of damage to a property, and 51% because of anti-social behaviour.

Smith said this was subsequently supported by the latest English Housing Survey, which found only 12% of private tenancies were ended by the landlord.

“[Section 21] is mostly used as the Section 8 process and court system are not fit for purpose.

“We will continue to make the case for a system that works for both tenants and landlords and will be responding to the consultation once we have reviewed the full details.

“It is welcome that the government has listened to our calls for the consultation to run for a proper length of time to give the millions affected time to respond, at 12 weeks,” said Smith.

The government intends to remove section 21 by removing the assured shorthold tenancy regime and ending any significant legal distinction between an assured shorthold tenancy and an assured tenancy.

Abolition comes with the offer of enhanced section 8 grounds and a simpler, faster process through the courts.

Essentially, wherever a section 21 notice would have been appropriate to use, an appropriate section 8 ground can be used instead. 

ARLA Propertymark chief executive David Cox warned government not to underestimate the impact the removal of Section 21 will have on landlord confidence.

“Strengthening Section 8 is essential, and it must move to a system of mandatory grounds with anti-social behaviour and rent arrears being top of the priority list,” said Cox.

“The success of the private rented sector has been built on the fact there is flexibility in the market for landlords, but more importantly for tenants.

“Government must make changes based on tenant behaviour, not just the demographic change amongst renters.

“Reform to the justice system is vital; and digitalisation, privatising bailiffs, and investing to ensure a properly functioning court system must be advanced in order that confidence amongst landlords and within the sector is maintained,” he said.

Government plans also include to possibility of opening up the rogue landlord database to tenants.

Launched in 2018, the database only has 10 names on it so far – despite being pitched as a definitive guide to those ‘landlords’ banned for failing to make a property habitable, convicted of serious offences or known to mistreat tenants.

At the moment the list is only open to councils, but the government’s proposed PRS reforms could open the list up to tenants.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said that, if renters have to provide references from employers and previous landlords before a landlord hands over the keys to a new flat, it was “only fair” that renters get the opportunity to check that a prospective landlord doesn’t have a criminal record.

“This plan is another victory for renters, though we need much more effective enforcement to identify all landlords who have been breaking the law,” said Wilson Craw.

“Abolishing Section 21 is a central task for any government that wants to make renting work for the millions of people who have no other option for the foreseeable future.

“Any changes must be carefully designed so that unscrupulous landlords cannot continue to force out tenants,” he said.

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