What next for Section 21
In April 2019, the Government announced its plans to abolish the no-fault eviction route to repossession as provided for by Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
When launching the consultation, the Government’s Housing Minister, James Brokenshire MP, commented that the Government’s main aim behind the change was to address the insecurity and vulnerability reported by tenants, together with the resultant impact such concerns can have in terms of disrupting children’s education and the adverse impact on tenants’ mental health.
Acknowledging the seismic change of such proposed reforms, the Government sought to reassure landlords on two fronts.
Firstly, the Government confirmed its intention to review the repossession regime set out under Section 8 – essentially the ‘fault-based’ counterpart to the non-fault based Section 21 route. “We are clear that the abolition of section 21 as a means to end tenancies will need to be underpinned by enhanced section 8 grounds and a simpler, faster process through the courts. Our aim is that wherever a section 21 notice would have been appropriate to use, an appropriate section 8 ground can be used instead”.
Secondly, there was now the added issue of how Courts would cope with the substantially increased number of Section 8 Claims they would be faced with, together with the ‘knock-on’ effect such Claims would have in terms of timeframe. Acknowledging that the average time taken for a Claim to progress to possession for private landlord cases was 22 weeks, the Government vowed to counter what would no doubt now be an increased number of Section 8 Claims through the introduction of the ‘Courts and Tribunal Service Possession Reform Project’, which sought to introduce a new online system to speed-up and simplify the court process for landlords.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has now responded setting out a range of concerns which remain notwithstanding the Government’s proposed solutions.
Expressing concern as to the fact landlords will now have to provide evidence in respect of any Section 8 ground relied on (assuming the Government does indeed amend the pre-existing Section 8 grounds), the RLA commented on the fact such uncertainty will inevitably cause landlords to become increasingly risk averse, and therefore less likely to rent to tenants seen to be at a higher risk of rent arrears, or causing damage to property.
With the consultation now it remains to be seen how the Government will now respond to recommendations and whether the concerns of landlords can yet be allayed.