The chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association has admitted in a newspaper article that some landlords do misuse their Section 21 powers.
However, Ben Beadle says this is in a minority of cases and most landlords use it responsibly despite the slow court process, and sometimes resort to it because of the unsatisfactory alternatives when they want possession of their property.
Writing in the I newspaper, Beadle says landlords now want the government to get on with the much-hyped but long-delayed Renters Reform Bill, because it may be the opportunity for the sector to introduce reforms which landlords want, as well as those advocated by tenants and their supporters.
“[Landlords] want the opportunity to be used for fundamental reforms to the private rented sector. These need to be fair and workable for both tenants and landlords and seek to sustain tenancies wherever possible” he writes.
“We realise that Section 21 can be open to misuse by a minority of landlords. For the most part, responsible landlords rely on it because the alternatives do not work where tenancies have failed irreparably. This is due to courts being slow to consider legitimate cases, courts having insufficient means to deal with complex cases and difficulties accessing legal advice for renters early in the process” he adds.
The reforms that Beadle calls for include setting out specific grounds upon which landlords should be able to regain possession of their properties. This includes tenant rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and situations where landlords want to sell.
Where possession notices are challenged, the NRLA is calling for the creation of a new, publicly funded conciliation service, similar to the employment dispute body, ACAS.
This would seek to resolve disagreements between landlords and tenants without the stress and costs associated with going to court.
The most serious cases, such as those related to criminal activity by a tenant, would need to go straight to court but most could be considered by the conciliation service.
This would help the tenant and landlord to reach an agreement to keep the tenancy going or bring the tenancy to an end in a way that works for both parties, the NRLA claims. Both tenants and landlords would be able to access the advice and support they needed to make their case.
Where landlords failed to abide by the terms of the agreement they would be banned from being able to re-possess the property using the same ground for six months. Where renters did so, the case would be fast tracked through the courts.
Later in the article Beadle states: “Even prior to the onset of Covid-19, it took an average of almost six months between a private landlord seeking a repossession through the courts to it happening. We hope that the introduction of conciliation would see a lot fewer cases ending up in court, but there still needs to be procedural changes and a boost to resources to ensure justice is not delayed, for either party.”
He also says the NRLA backs the government’s commitment to lifetime deposits for renters, and his association proposes a new deposit ISA for renters or a new financial facility to bridge the transition from one tenancy to another.
“For too long the sector has been characterised by power struggles between landlords and tenants. This Bill provides the opportunity to end this and develop a fair and workable framework for the sector. We believe our proposals achieve this” he concludes.