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EXCLUSIVE: What will happen after Section 21 evictions go? We ask the experts

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For several years now the government has promised to reform how landlords evict tenants including the abolition of possessions enabled under Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act.

This kind of eviction was a key plank of Margaret Thatcher's attempts to persuade more landlords into the private rented sector by offering a flexible 'no fault' (or to be accurate 'no reason') eviction path.

This offered a 'mandatory' court process that, under certain circumstances, eviction was assured ' in other words, the judge has no 'discretionary' leeway.

But Section 21 evictions have become controversial. Used by thousands of landlords every year to avoid the more lengthy and costly Section 8 eviction process, it has also been misused by some landlords to eject tenants unfairly.

When reform does sweep in, most likely within the Renters' Reform Bill which is expected to get Royal Assent before the 2024 General Election, it does away with Section 21. Ministers have promised a 'beefed up' Section 8 process to enable landlords to evict if they have 'legitimate grounds for taking back their property'.

But so far, they have given little detail as to what 'legitimate grounds' will mean.

So LandlordZONE has canvassed all the key policy players within the private rented sector, most of whom communicate regularly with housing ministry officials, to see what they think will happen later this year.

Chris Norris (pictured), Policy Director for the National Residential Landlords Association, says: 'The NRLA's proposals for a new system to replace Section 21 show that we need clear and comprehensive grounds for landlords to legitimately repossess properties.'

To read the NRLA's proposals, read his separate blog for LandlordZONE on how landlords and agents should be enabled to deal with rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and when landlords need to sell their properties.

Shelter: Polly Neate, Chief Executive

polly shelter

'Banning unfair no-fault evictions will mean renters can live with the peace of mind that they won't be turfed out of their home for no good reason.

'This change will not stop landlords from evicting tenants if they have a good reason, including if they need to sell their home, in the future.

'Rental reform is long-overdue and more urgent now than ever as renters desperately need safety and security in their homes during a time of uncertainty. But right now, they're just words on a page. The government needs to finish the job and make the Bill law, because every minute wasted leaves renters at risk."'�

Propertymark: Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns

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'Propertymark's The Future of Renting position paper sets out what reform should look like.

'The UK Government need to improve efficiencies to the existing possession process in the courts, digitise possession claims and enhance dispute resolution.

'Introducing an automatic right to a High Court Enforcement Officer and privatise County Court Bailiffs would also help capacity and speed up the process.

'If the UK Government remove Section 21 it should be replaced with a system that makes all grounds mandatory.

'Based on the sheer scale of the changes, the UK Government would also be wise to implement a full pilot of proposals to remove Section 21, mediation, and a new possession process before rolling out the new reforms across the country.'

Renters' Reform Coalition: Livi Elsmore, Campaign Manager

livi renters coalition

"The intention of the Renters' Reform Bill is to abolish no-fault evictions. Any new grounds for possession introduced by the government must ensure this intention is met, and that renters' security of tenure is not undermined.'

'This is why the Renters' Reform Coalition is calling for no-fault grounds to be used only in extremely limited circumstances, after the first two years of a tenancy, and when a landlord produces clear evidence of their intentions for the property.

"We support a move away from selling properties with vacant possession as the default option and want to see the government incentivise landlords to sell with tenants in residence."

The Lettings Industry Council - chair Theresa Wallace

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'Politically the government have committed to abolition of Section 21 but this decision was made without discussing the effects with those with expertise in the industry.

'Although tenant campaigners claim, quite correctly, that a Section 21 notice is the most common reason a person reports as homeless, most of these notices are served for a reason that would also enable them to use Section 8 and our recent survey showed this.

'Following the ban there will be two effects. Firstly, some landlords are already leaving the market as they are not happy with this rule, on top of a lot of negative tax changes.

'Secondly, allowing for the shrinking market, the Section 8 notice will replace Section 21 as the most common reason for people reporting homeless.

'Other than the loss of properties available to rent for lower-income families, it will not reduce the number of notices as the reasons the TLIC report shows will simply be used on Section 8.'

The Nationwide: spokesperson

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'Nationwide has long supported the abolition of Section 21 but believe it must be accompanied by other reforms to the eviction process.

'Most notably, a clear list of legitimate reasons for eviction should be set out under Section 8 and this should include landlords wanting to sell a property, and cases of anti-social behaviour and non-payment of rent.

'Landlords in any of these situations need to have the reassurance that they will be able to gain possession of the property in a timely manner and this process should also include improvements to the court process, potentially including the creation of a dedicated housing court.

'A mutually beneficial private rented sector needs to offer tenants the security they will not be evicted without good reason yet also provide landlords the confidence they can gain possession of a property quickly and efficiently if something does go wrong.

Generation Rent - Dan Wilson Craw, Deputy Director.

'The government has been clear that there will be grounds for eviction if the landlord wants to move back in or sell, but these should be restricted to give tenants as much security as possible.

"One option could be to require a property to be advertised for sale with sitting tenants for a period before notice can be served. If an eviction does go ahead, then the tenant should have support with their moving costs which is already the case for the refurbishment ground under Section 8.

'The landlord should also show they meet basic standards, such as gas safety and deposit protection, to use no-fault grounds, as is the case with Section 21 now. That would help prevent abuse by criminal landlords.

'The government has also said that it will make eviction easier when tenants break the terms of the tenancy. Tenants should still have an opportunity to defend themselves as we saw in the pandemic it is very easy for people to lose income and get into arrears, particularly if there are delays to benefit payments.'

Landlord Action - founder Paul Shamplina

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"Abolishing Section 21 will not significantly change the number of evictions, it will simply change the process, which may have knock-on consequences for the number of open court cases and the associated costs for which the tenant will be liable.'

"The Section 8 notice and associated grounds will become the norm [but there] are various aspects of Section 8 that need considerable revision before Section 21 can be fully abolished.

'I believe it will need to be a phased ending to allow the courts time to clear the backlog from the last two years and for all grounds to be considered and revised appropriately."

Evictions: the reality

Why tenants leave properties*

  • 47% gave notice to end their periodic tenancy
  • 30% decided not to renew their tenancy
  • 16% moved out before the end of their tenancy
  • 6%  were asked to leave
  • 3% were evicted
  • 3% landlord decided not to renew the tenancy

Why landlords/agents seek to evict tenants*

  • 46% tenant in rent arrears
  • 39% because the property was not cared for
  • 32% tenant engaged in anti-social behaviour
  • 25% to sell the property
  • 13% to refurbish and re-let it
  • 7% tenant had too many complaints

*Propertymark data from 2021


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