A proposal to scrap Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, the clause which allows landlords to evict tenants without cause, would be a fundamental mistake that could potentially deter many people from investing in the private rented sector, according to Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
As the nature of the rental market continues to change, many tenants are now adopting a longer-term view to renting property, which is great news for landlords, but rent arrears remain a real concern for a number of landlords across the UK, especially as it can have a significant impact on their ability to pay their mortgage.
Thankfully, landlords keen to regain possession of their properties can currently issue tenants with a Section 21 notice, giving them at least two months to leave. But Generation Rent’s campaign to end section 21 appears to be gaining momentum.
Citizens Advice is the latest organisation to claim that Section 21, dubbed ‘no fault’ evictions, is not working and that a “new fix is needed” to offer private tenants greater stability in their homes and the means of complaining about sub-standard housing without the fear of being evicted.
Any landlord who evicts a tenant solely for this reason should be slammed according to the RLA, but it points out that this not the practice of the vast majority of responsible landlords, and should therefore not result in a ban on ‘Section 21’ notices.
The landlord body refers to government data which reveals that just 11% of tenancies are ended by the landlord and, of these, almost two thirds regained their property because they wanted to sell it or use it.
In other cases landlords have sought possession because of tenants committing anti-social behaviour or failing to pay their rent. The fact that a tenant may have complained about disrepair is often not the reason for the eviction.
In this minority of cases landlords either have to seek a ‘Section 8’ notice which new RLA research shows takes on average six months and costs over £2,500 for landlords to regain possession their property.
The alternative is to wait until the end of the contract and use a Section 21 notice without having to give a reason. This has led to section 21 notices being used because Section 8 is not fit for purpose.
The RLA says that what is needed is a new ‘housing court’ to speed up access to justice for both tenants and landlords when things do go wrong. The government is currently considering this.
David Smith, the RLA’s policy director, said: “No good landlord will want to evict a tenant unless there is a major issue around rent arrears or anti-social behaviour. That’s why the average length of a tenancy is now four years.
“But where things do go wrong, landlords need to have confidence that they can regain their property.
“This is why we believe a new process, a dedicated ‘housing court’, needs to be established to speed things up and why there needs to be a six month break clause in the proposed three year tenancy.”