Loopholes in the Renters Reform Bill around alternative possession grounds leave it open to abuse by unscrupulous landlords, claims a Labour activist and lawyer.
A landlord will simply need to demonstrate an '�intention' to use the property to live in or sell before they can gain possession, but proposals don't stipulate what evidence should be used to demonstrate this, according to Jamie McGowan, a member of the Society of Labour Lawyers who works for a Labour MP.
'As these are mandatory grounds, if the criteria are met, a judge hearing the case would have no discretion to consider the tenant's circumstances and a possession order for the property would have to be made,'� he says.
'So, for example, even if a tenant could prove that a landlord had relied on this ground to regain possession from multiple successive tenants at the same property, waited three months on each occasion, and then simply re-let the property, a judge would not have the power to decide '�perhaps this is disingenuous' and refuse possession.'�
Making these grounds discretionary would mean the courts can consider all the circumstances of a case before making an order. It would also be less open to abuse if there were greater up-front evidential requirements before an order could be made.
With the new mandatory rent arrears Ground 8A, a landlord is entitled to a possession order when a tenant has fallen into eight weeks' arrears on three separate occasions during the previous three years. This new ground would not allow for the order to be avoided by reducing the arrears by the day of a hearing, as the existing Ground 8 does.
If discretionary grounds were introduced, when the tenant repays the arrears at an agreed rate, they would keep their home and the landlord recovers the rent owed, asserts McGowan.