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Shelter accused of sensationalising Section 21 evictions

The National Residential Landlords Association has hit back at allegations made by Shelter, accusing the charity of sensationalising the way landlords use Section. 21 eviction powers.

The charity recently issued a press release claiming that a private renter in England is handed a Section 21 eviction every seven minutes. It said almost 230,000 private tenants have been served with a S21 since the government first committed to scrap this form of eviction in April 2019. 

And it added that this was despite an eviction ban being in place for 14 months of this three-year period due to the pandemic.   


However Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, has been sharply critical of the claims.

He has already accused Shelter of scaremongering and now an open letter sent to the charity’s chief executive - Polly Neate - accuses the organisation of sensationalising the issue. 

Here is the wording of the NRLA letter in full:

Dear Polly,

I write following the publication of Shelter’s research: “Every seven minutes a private renter is served a no-fault eviction notice despite government promise to scrap them three years ago.”

As you know, there are many issues around homelessness and the private rented sector on which Shelter and the NRLA can agree. However, this publication presented a disappointingly one-sided picture, which has the potential to create needless anxiety for tenants that their landlord is about to evict them for no reason.

In fact, official data shows that it is only in a small minority of cases where tenancies are ended by either a landlord or letting agent. The most recently available English Housing Survey data on the issue, from 2019/20, shows that amongst those private renters whose tenancy ended over the pre- vious year, 91.9% were ended by the tenant themselves rather than by being asked to leave by their landlord or letting agent1.

This all demonstrates that, as we hear from our members, far from looking for ways to evict ten- ants, the vast majority of landlords much prefer to sustain tenancies and keep tenants in their homes.

There are, as we know, a small number of irresponsible landlords who have no place in the market and bring the wider sector into disrepute. Your press release, however, gives the misleading im- pression that most landlords fall into this category which is far from the case. For example:

  • A private renter being served a Section 21 notice every 7 minutes would amount to around 75,000 over the course of a year, representing just 0.7% of the 11 million private renters Shel- ter itself says live in England.

  • Regrettably the press release failed to point out that the number of possession cases brought to court following a Section 21 notice being issued is actually falling. According to the Ministry of Justice2, between 2019 and 2021 the number of Section 21 possession claims brought to court fell by 56%, from 19,042 in 2019 to 8,402 in 2021. This fall was not simply because of the repossession ban implemented during the pandemic. The number had already reduced by 50% from 2015 to 2019.

  • As you know, but did not make clear, many landlords using a Section 21 route to repossess a property do not do so because they have no reason to seek repossession, but because the al- ternative Section 8 route is not working as it should. For example:

    • -  At present, the Section 8 ground for anti-social behaviour is all but impossible to use properly. Where neighbours and fellow tenants are suffering as a result of such behaviour, as things stand now Section 21 is the only viable option to take swift action against people causing problems.

    • -  Ministry of Justice data shows that using a Section 8 notice can take a landlord almost a year between an application to repossess and obtaining possession3. When landlords have a legitimate reason to repossess a property, this is simply too long, particularly as rent ar- rears can be building throughout this time for landlords who may be hard pressed for money themselves.

  • Shelter’s press release also failed to explain the restrictions that are currently placed on the ability of landlords to issue a Section 21 notice. As you know, Section 21 notices are invalid in

the following circumstances:

  • -  If a landlord has failed to protect a tenant’s deposit in an approved scheme.

  • -  If a landlord has failed to obtain a licence for a property as is legally required.

  • -  The landlord has not issued the tenant with a How to Rent booklet.

  • -  The landlord has not issued the tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate.

  • -  The landlord has not maintained the gas safety record for the property since the tenancy


  • -  The landlord has not used the required Form (6A) to issue the notice.

In addition:

-  Measures in the Deregulation Act 2015 protect tenants from eviction when they raise a complaint about the condition of their home.

-  Tenants can also challenge in a tribunal any rent increase they deem to be unfair, which provides protection against excessive rent increases being used as a way of forcing tenants out of a property.

The NRLA is not opposing the Government’s decision to end Section 21 and has been at the fore- front of discussing and proposing a viable alternative. The private rented sector has increased sig- nificantly in the past ten years and is being asked to house people for whom the PRS was never intended. However, as our proposals for a new system make clear4, Section 21 cannot simply be scrapped without the associated reforms needed to ensure that a new system is fair and workable for both tenants and landlords. This has got to include clear and comprehensive grounds whereby landlords can repossess their properties with a legitimate reason – as most landlords do as pre- sent.

I know and welcome that Shelter agrees with this, as noted in the comments made to the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year5 by Policy Manager, Ruth Ehrlich, who stated that Shelter, “completely understand and recognise that, with scrapping section 21, there will need to be re- forms to section 8.” She went on to note that removing Section 21 would mean, “the grounds for possession will need to be expanded.”

In a post Section 21 environment there will be a need to address situations in which tenants have built disproportionate rent arrears. NRLA also wants to ensure that support is in place to prevent rent arrears in the first place. This must include unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance, making enhancements to the broken Universal Credit system and doing more to boost the supply of all types of housing including those for private rent. However, where tenancies fail there has to be a sensible way for landlords to regain possession of their properties.

Speaking to the Public Accounts Committee Ruth Ehrlich also noted that: “We would not want to see any changes to a mandatory rent arrears ground.” We assume from this that Shelter has ap- propriately distanced itself from suggestions that rent arrears should only be a discretionary ground to repossess a property. This would send a dangerous message that somehow paying rent should be optional, which would not be acceptable in any other walk of life.

I hope this letter sets out clearly why NRLA has found your publication to be such an unbalanced account of what is happening now, and what needs to happen if Section 21 is to be abolished.

Rather than sensationalising the issue, we would welcome discussion about how you would pro- pose tackling these important matters, particularly the problem of anti-social behaviour perpetrated by tenants. Simply continually calling for the abolition of section 21 without any discussion of the delicate issues associated with its removal, as articulated here, does nothing to advance the de- bate.

Given the interest in this matter, and in order to provide much needed balance to the report, we will be making this letter publicly available. I look forward to hearing from you.

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    Watch the tumbleweed as it falls on deaf ears.
    Shelter aren't interested. As far as they're concerned, tenants are victims, landlords are evil.

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    OMG - Beadle finally speaking up for Landlords however I do not feel he is representing the feelings of Landlords when he says that the NRLA is not opposing the banning of Section 21? Although it is nice to see a clarification of why so many of us use S21 if and when absolutely necessary I wonder if Mr Beadle has actually spoken to any Landlords to see if they do not oppose the banning of S21. I suspect not. Personally I have not joined the NRLA as I do not feel he represents us in any way shape or form.

    Sadly despite Mr Beadle FINALLY stepping up and speaking out Shelter are highly unlikely to listen - as we are all aware they have their own agenda and it is not to help tenants! I am seeing HMOs and blocks of flats coming up for sale in my area for the first time ever as without S21 they will be impossible to manage effectively. Also receiving lots of enquiries from people looking for a new tenancy as their LLs are selling up. Supplied the local MP and council with the figures re rentals being sold but unsurprisingly they are uninterested. I hope they have a good budget for B&B and feel so sorry for the tenants who are losing their homes due to Government incompetence

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    This woman is a disgrace. Profiting and living a high life on the generous donations and of the backs of those she claims to help. Shelter the charity (business) that houses no one.

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    Totally concur with the above comments, they do not want to listen, just fight and argue. In the end if the market becomes too toxic we can sell…. The tenants do not have that option. I would hate to be a renter in the future, life is going to get very hard indeed.

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    Mr Ben Beadle those are your views not the views of NRLA Members. I am a member from 16 years but not NRLA but NLA before we were nobbled & amalgamated with RLA that unfortunately imported you.
    The big long letter amount to nothing as you are in favour of Scrapping Section 21 which is the one thing you should be standing up against, you don’t represent me as a member.
    Although your letter contains at least 8 additional separate listings of new rights that Tenants have that were not part of the 2004 Housing Act which brought in Section 21, do you think it had not been depleted enough already which included Shelters 2015 DeRegulation Act when they failed with Sarah Teaters Private members Bill without scraping it altogether.
    As long as your letter is it didn’t mention any new found Rights for Landlords’s, all the list are extra new Rights for Tenants undermining Section 21, obviously you couldn’t because there isn’t any for Landlords and you are still braying to get rid of Section 21 you don’t represent your members .


    Agree apart from section 21 which I believe was part of the 1988 Housing act.

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    I hope Beadle sent a copy to the Housing Minister, whoever that happens to be today, and saves a copy to send to whoever it will be tomorrow.

    Shelter are just despicable and decent tenants' worst enemy.

  • David Saunders

    The drop in value of a vacant house or flat compared to one with what will be a lifetime sitting tenant post outlawing of section 21, will be at least 50% and the only likely purchaser will be the then sitting tenant. Add impending rent controls into the mix and unless Shelter starts practising what it preaches I can't imagine many landlords other than large companies looking to take that risk.

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    There is little point sending this to Shelter who probably know all this already. It needs to be in the public domain with bells on. Lately I have found myself having to explain even to family members, who know how hard I work to look after our houses and tenants at undermarket rents, why there is shortage of rental properties (and, incidentally, to buy) in our area and that the majority of Landlords are not wicked money grabbers. They are exposed to the constant drip drip of adverse publicity with no one on mainstream news refuting these claims.


    Agreed, the general public and most tenants don't know whats going on, when it all happens it'll be too late, it will hurt tenants far more than landlords

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    Anyone just heard the utter drivel spouted on Women's hour on Radio 4. Polly Neate interviewed. Absolutely no facts - same old misinformation that S21 is the cause of homelessness and Radio 4 supported this. This is not journalism but left wing populist propaganda. One poor women and her kids given S21 and I am sure it is a horrible position to be in but absolutely NO MENTION as to why - perhaps the landlord is selling up because they are abolishing S21. DUH!


    There is ALWAYS a reason, and generally a very good one.

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    Catherine. We have a London Radio Station at the same drivel non stop in recent years saying how terrible Landlords are giving all one sided view, & on about removal of S.21, so much propaganda its more quite recently but it took the War to stop it, that keeps them busy now.


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