Section 21 notices to be banned in England?
At the weekend, the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford AM announced at the Welsh Labour party conference that the Welsh Government intends to axe Section 21 notices.
This week, the UK Government has announced plans to consult on new legislation to abolish Section 21 evictions – so called ‘no-fault’ evictions in England. This will effectively create open-ended tenancies, and lead to what the Government believe will be more effective means of getting their property back when they genuinely need to do so.
Under the UK Government’s proposals, landlords will have to provide a concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law for bringing tenancies to an end.
To ensure landlords have confidence the Government will allow them to be able to end tenancies where they have legitimate reason to do so. To this end, Ministers at Westminster will amend the Section 8 eviction process, so property owners are able to regain their home should they wish to sell it or move into it.
The Government will also expedite Court processes, so landlords are able to swiftly and smoothly regain their property.
Ministers will work with other types of housing providers outside of the private rented sector who use these powers and use the consultation to make sure the new system works effectively.
Devastating for the private rented sector
Commenting, David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark, said: “Today’s news could be devastating for the private rented sector and landlords operating within it.
“The effects of the tenant fees ban have not yet been felt, and now the Government is introducing more new legislation which could deter landlords from operating in the market. Although in the majority of cases there is no need for Section 21 to be used, there are times when a landlord has no choice but to take action and evict tenants from a property.
“Landlords need the safety of no-fault evictions and removing Section 21 takes this away. Until we have greater clarity on the changes planned for Section 8, today’s news will only increase pressure on the sector and discourage new landlords from investing in buy-to-let properties. This comes at a time when supply is dramatically outpacing demand and rent costs are rising.”
The RLA is warning that there could be “serious dangers” to the supply of rental housing for vulnerable tenants as a result of government plans to axe Section 21.
The Government is proposing a consultation on the abolition of Section 21, so called ‘no fault’, repossessions in the private rented sector in favour of improving the court system to ensure landlords can more speedily repossess properties through them in legitimate cases.
David Smith, Policy Director for the RLA said:
“Whilst the RLA recognises the pressure being placed on Government for change, there are serious dangers of getting such reforms wrong.
“With the demand for private rented homes continuing to increase, we need the majority of good landlords to have confidence to invest in new homes. This means ensuring they can swiftly repossess properties for legitimate reasons such as rent arrears, tenant anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell them. This needs to happen before any moves are made to end Section 21.
“For all the talk of greater security for tenants, that will be nothing if the homes to rent are not there in the first place. We call on the government to act with caution.”
Government data shows that on average tenants live in their rental properties for over four years and that in 90 per cent of cases tenancies are ended by the tenant rather than the landlord.
The RLA is warning that at a time when the demand for rental homes is outstripping supply, especially among vulnerable tenants, the Government risks exacerbating the problem if it does not ensure that landlords have complete confidence that they can repossess properties swiftly for legitimate reasons. These include tenant rent arrears, tenants committing anti-social behaviour and landlords wanting to sell their properties.
With the Government’s own data showing that it takes over five months from a private landlord applying to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening, the RLA argues that it is vital that a reformed and improved court system is able to bed in and the grounds to repossess properties are properly improved before making changes to Section 21. This would follow the lead set in Scotland.
Research by Manchester Metropolitan University for the RLA has found that in a large majority of cases where tenants are asked to leave their properties under Section 21 notices there is a clear reason. Half of the notices are used where tenants have rent arrears, are committing anti-social behaviour or damage to the property. Other common reasons include the landlord needing to take back possession of a property for sale or refurbishment. The report’s authors argue that this “raises questions” about whether the use of Section 21 notices can properly be described as ‘no fault’ evictions, as some have called them.
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