The government announced in April that it wants to abolish Section 21 evictions. This means the end of landlords being able to repossess their properties at the end of fixed-term contracts unless they have a defined legal reason to do so as well as evidence to back up their claim. Ministers say they will bolster Section 8 powers to allow landlords an easier route to evicting problems tenants through the courts, but landlords’ groups warn that the move could lead to ‘indefinite tenancies’.
Keep reading to find out what the government proposed and how those on both sides reacted to the news.
What is a Section 21 Notice?
A Section 21 notice allows a landlord to evict tenants at the end of a tenancy with a minimum of two months’ notice. They can serve the notice earlier if there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement. Currently, landlords don’t need to give a reason for the eviction, which is why people often refer to them as ‘no-fault’ evictions.
Initially, the government intended Section 21 evictions to be used in order for landlords to regain use of their property to either live in or to sell. However, according to the National Landlords Association (NLA), Section 21 notices have become a “backstop to overcome the ineffective Section 8 process”.
Section 8 involves landlords taking disruptive tenants to court to evict them over unpaid rent, antisocial behaviour, damage to the property and similar issues. The process is seen by many as long-winded and expensive.
Why do the Government Want to Abolish Section 21 Evictions?
A large number of renters on the market have long felt ignored by the main political parties. However, in a time of political turmoil and with all parties desperate for votes, the consensus seems to be that tenants are an untapped source of support. Hence a number of policies aimed at buttering them up ahead of a potential forthcoming general election.
Supporters of plans to abolish Section 21 evictions say it will prevent situations like landlords removing tenants who simply complain. But the main reasoning given behind the move to consult on ending Section 21 was to provide stability for renters. "Everyone renting in the private sector has the right to feel secure in their home, settled in their community and able to plan for the future with confidence,” said Prime Minister Theresa May “But millions of responsible tenants could still be uprooted by their landlord with little notice, and often little justification.”
In contrast with this statement, researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University discovered that the majority of Section 21 evictions did, in fact, provide reasons. According to the study, around half were due to the tenant breaking the terms of their agreement. In addition, a large number of landlords ended tenancies in order to live in or refurbish their properties.
On the subject of tenants’ stability, opponents of the Section 21 ban point to official figures that suggest that it exists already. Currently, 9 out of 10 tenancies end at the request of the tenant and the average renter stays in a property for four years. These statistics come straight from the government’s own data.
Reaction to Plans to Abolish Section 21 Evictions
The response to the Section 21 notice announcement was mixed, to say the least. Renters’ groups proclaimed it as a huge victory for the 11 million tenants in the UK. But those representing landlords and lettings agents were unhappy with what they heard.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) warned the government that a scheme to ban section 21 evictions could cause an even greater shortfall in the number of rental properties than there already is. The RLA argued that potential landlords will turn their backs on the idea and current letters will leave the market if they do not have confidence they will be able to easily evict problem tenants for legitimate reasons.
The group points to research that shows going through the courts to repossess a property currently takes more than five months and is extremely costly. The government has said it will make the Section 8 process easier and more effective, but without any clarity on the plans to do so, landlords’ groups remain concerned.
The NLA also made clear its opposition to the proposal as it stands. Its CEO Richard Lambert called on the government to fully overhaul Section 8 to make it work for both landlords and tenants before touching Section 21.
What Happens Next?
Nothing is set in stone in the push to abolish Section 21 evictions. The government merely announced a consultation. Once that is complete and the results returned, ministers can then decide whether to take the matter further.
Former Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors residential chairman Jeremy Leaf is confident that common sense will prevail. “On the ground, we don’t find this [no-fault evictions] happens frequently at all so hope that a thorough evidence-based consultation will flush out the extent of the problem,” he is reported as saying by The Mirror, “This will ensure that landlords do not desert the sector unnecessarily; if they did, it would only result in further upward pressure on rents and affordability issues."
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