Section 21:

Interested parties representing landlords and letting agents have formed a group to be known as the “Fair Possessions Coalition”.

The industry leaders’ group has united in warning the Government that plans to abolish the no-fault Section 21 repossessions process, before a safeguarded alternative system is in place, would undermine investment in the sector. This they say is crucial at a time when private landlords are being heavily relied upon on to provide homes for one in five households in England.

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The collective says that, “Section 21 repossessions should be retained in the private rented sector unless and until a new system is in place that provides landlords with the same level of confidence  about repossessing properties in legitimate circumstances.”

The Fair Possessions Coalition is so far made up of: ARLA Propertymark; Cornwall Residential Landlords Association; Country Land and Business Association; East Midlands Property Owners; Eastern Landlords Association; Guild of Residential Landlords; Humber Landlords Association; iHowz; Landlord Action; Leeds Property Association; National Landlords Alliance; National Landlords Association; North West Landlords Association; Portsmouth and District Private Landlords’ Association; Residential Landlords Association; Safe Agent; South West Landlords Association; and Theresa Wallace (Chair, The Lettings Industry Council)

Landlords and letting agents are worried that simply abolishing section 21 without the necessary safeguards will undo all that the 1988 Housing Act provided as an incentive for landlords to invest in the rental property market. Already tax and regulatory changes are taking their toll and some landlords have already taken steps to abandon the market.

In a statement the Coalition says:

“…whilst landlords much prefer to have good tenants staying long term in their properties they need certainty that in legitimate circumstances, such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, they can swiftly and easily repossess their properties in much the same way as social landlords and mortgage lenders.”

Government has intimated that simply tweaking the current ‘Section 8’ process, under which landlords can repossess properties based on a number of grounds, would suffice. But landlords, especially those who have experience of the current courts system, have little confidence that this would work to their satisfaction.

The coalition says, “[It – section 8] …is not fit for purpose and does not provide the level of certainty offered by Section 21. The current judicial process for dealing with possession cases is confusing for tenants and takes an average of over five months from a landlord applying to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening.”

Instead of tinkering with the system, the Coalition thinks, a comprehensive overhaul of the regulations and processes enabling landlords to repossess their properties is what’s needed. The government would need to set-out clear grounds for repossession and a mechanism for swift action in dealing with re-possessions that are unable to be exploited by criminal landlords or unreliable tenants.

Linked to the reform, says the Coalition, “should be the establishment of a new, dedicated, fully funded housing court. This should make better use of mediation taking into account models in use abroad and meet in local venues such as schools and community centres, making the process less intimidating and easier for landlords and tenants to obtain the swift and accessible justice they need if the relationship is to work effectively.

“…such reforms must form part of a wider package of measures including welfare reforms to better support vulnerable tenants to sustain tenancies and smart taxation to encourage the development of the new homes for private rent the country needs.”

A full copy of the statement, which has been sent to the Government, can be accessed here

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