More details have emerged of what appears to be a stay of execution for Section 21 eviction powers in the short term.
The abolition of Section 21 was arguably the centrepiece of the Renters Reform Bill, which has its Second Reading in the House of Commons today.
On Friday it emerged that Section 21 would still be be abolished but only when improvements are made to the way courts handle legitimate possession cases.
Now we know what the government suggests those improvements will consist of - and they appear to be substantial improvements which may take some time to introduce.
They begin with digitising more of the court process to make it simpler and easier for landlords to use; exploring the prioritisation of certain cases including antisocial behaviour; Improving bailiff recruitment and retention and reducing administrative tasks so bailiffs can prioritise possession enforcement; and Providing early legal advice and better signposting for tenants including to help them find a housing solution that meets their needs.
The government also says it wants to strengthen mediation and dispute resolution as a way for landlords to settle problems without resort to courts, and to “embed this as a member service of the new Ombudsman” - the latter being something all landlords must join, in addition to professional property agents.
The government has firmly rejected the call from many experts in the lettings industry for a dedicated housing court, saying its costs would outweigh its benefits. The government insists it would be more effective to channel resources into improving existing court capacity and processes.
These details come on a response from government to a report from the House of Commons Housing Select Committee.*
The release of the response so close to the Second Reading may be interpreted by some as a concession to defuse growing opposition to the Bill by the property industry, landlords and some politicians.
In perhaps the most clear cut sentences in the response, the government confirms that implementation of any alternative process for repossessing properties“will not take place until we judge sufficient progress has been made to improve the courts.”
It continues: “That means we will not proceed with the abolition of section 21, until reforms to the justice system are in place.”
In addition the government has agreed to establish a new ground to repossess properties to protect the yearly nature of the student housing market.
The government has said it will “introduce a ground for possession that will facilitate the yearly cycle of short-term student tenancies” which “will enable new students to sign up to a property in advance, safe in the knowledge they will have somewhere to live the next year.”
The Second Reading of the Renters Reform Bill takes place in the Commons late this afternoon.
* You can find the full, lengthy letter from the government to the Select Committee here - it's important to note that the recommendations are from the committee, which does not set policy, and the responses are from the government.
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