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Section 21 to be banned in the UK

The Government has announced its intention to scrap Section 21 notices for eviction in an effort to offer tenants more long-term security.

At the moment, Section 21 notices enable landlords toevict tenants without a reason at the end of their fixed-term tenancy. However,under the government's new plans, landlords would be required to provide'concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law' in order to bringtenancies to an end. In order to support this, the government also announcedplans to make reforms for Section 8, with a consultation launching shortly.

I can’t say I’m surprised by this move, as thegovernment has come under increasing pressure to make this move for sometime.  However, I will be surprised, andsomewhat concerned, if they do completely abolish Section 21 rather thandiluting it, which I had presumed they would do.

Either way, this is going to be game-changing for thePRS. By removing the ability to evict with Section, I predict:-

  • Any prospective landlords will think twice about embarking onthe world of buy-to-let, therefore limiting future supply growth, certainly inthe short-term
  • Some existing landlords, particularly those accidental landlordswho may have previously been victim to difficult tenants, will exit the market,thus compounding the housing shortage crisis
  • We may see a surge in landlords serving section 21’s in the nearfuture if they are not confident about their current tenants.

As I have said for many years,the vast majority of landlords only evict tenants as a last resort. No landlordwants to go through the hassle or expense of having to evict a tenant, butsometimes needs must, which is why the term ‘no-fault’ is moot and infuriatesme.

By the government’s own admission, 90% of tenanciesare ended by the tenant. Of those the tenancies ended by thelandlord, we know that the majority are ended because of rent arrears, asin 56% of cases surveyed by Landlord Action.

The reason many landlords useSection 21 to gain possession rather than Section 8, is because it is typicallyquicker.  Landlords have little faith inthe current court system and few anticipate being able to pursue rent arrearswithout a lengthy process, so most take the decision to forfeit recovering lostrent and just to get their property back as soon as possible so they canre-let.  Section 8 also comes with theadded risk that tenants can counter-claim, therefore delaying the processfurther.

The government has said Courtprocesses will be expedited so landlords are able to swiftly and smoothlyregain their property in the rare event of tenants falling into rent arrears.However, in truth, no-one really knows how ‘rare’ rent arrears cases arebecause most landlords are writing them off via use of Section 21.

In my view, if Section 8 is goingto have to be relied on more heavily, it must be “fit for purpose” and any changesand their application need to be carefully considered.  Clearly, if a landlord is going to need stronggrounds for possession, there are going to be a lot more court hearings. So, myquestion is ‘are there going to be a lot more judges to handle this increasedworkload?’.  On a positive note, it willgive much greater accuracy as to why tenants are evicted and may help pave theway for future reforms to support both landlords and tenants.

I do fully understand the argument that unscrupulous landlordsshould not be able to kick good tenants out without reason and that families tohave greater security and be able to put down roots.  However, I also feel strongly that the proposalneeds careful considered before removing the use of Section 21 altogether.


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