Section 21 has been the cornerstone of the private rented sector since its introduction in 1988. It has provided landlords in England and Wales with a reliable mechanism that allows them to regain possession of their property with certainty.
The UK Government intends to abolish Section 21 in England with the introduction of the Renters’ Reform Bill. This will mean that landlords will need to use Section 8, under which there are both mandatory and discretionary grounds and landlords must provide evidence that specific grounds have been met before the court will grant possession.
At the same time, the Welsh Government is planning to restrict use of their upcoming Section 21 equivalent, Section 173, so it cannot be used in the first 12 months of a tenancy.
While Section 21 is often referred to as ‘no fault eviction’, all the evidence from our research shows that landlords do not go to court without good reason. Instead the majority only use Section 21 for legitimate purposes such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.
They do this because Section 8, the notice that should be used where the tenant is at fault, is often ineffective and the court process around it is too slow. Section 21 masks these inadequacies and landlords must have confidence that any new system or restrictions will not leave them using an alternative that is not fit for purpose.
We are calling for:
- reform of the grounds under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, so that landlords have the confidence that they will be able to regain possession when they have legitimate reasons to do so
- increased resourcing of the courts, to address the lengthy process, including an increase in bailiff capacity across England and Wales
- the establishment of a specialist housing court or tribunal, to aid access to justice for both landlords and tenants.
Reform of the courts must go hand in hand with the biggest changes to possession in over 30 years. That’s why we’re lobbying the Government to ensure that the abolition of Section 21 is not rushed through as a response to the coronavirus pandemic but brought in as part of a package of reforms to the sector.
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Ministers have today made important concessions about how repossession cases in the rental market will be handled from 20th September. It follows extensive lobbying by the National Residential Landlords Association after the Government U-turned on its plan for such cases to be heard again from 23rd August.
Courts will begin to hear possession cases again from the 24th August, following a five month ban on evictions.
The strict procedures landlords must now follow when bringing forward possession cases were laid out by the Government recently, detailing what landlords need to do under new Civil Procedure Rules.
Extending the ban on evictions in rented housing will compound the suffering of victims of domestic violence and anti-social behaviour says the NRLA. As a result of the decision by the government to prevent any evictions taking place until the end of August, landlords are powerless to take action against tenants committing domestic abuse or making the lives of fellow tenants or neighbours a misery.