Will the abolishment of Section 21 be a positive for the private rented sector?
Tom Gatzen, co-founder, Ideal Flatmate
It is fair to say that the UK rental market has seen some of the largest degrees of change in the property space, with a government shake-up targeting landlords in a bid to level the playing field. But while financial penalties via stamp duty increase and changes to tax relief thresholds may be misguided in their approach, one change that will be beneficial is the scrapping of the Section 21 notice.
Ruling with an iron fist and maintaining order through fear is not the way to create a happy, harmonious environment, but this is the unfortunate reality that Section 21 allows.
Not only does it create this culture of fear, but it prevents tenants from reporting issues with a property – issues such as mould, a faulty boiler, unwanted additional house guests… the list goes on.
This is something they are well within their rights to do but refrain from for fear that it will become a mark on their card.
Now, there are, of course, as many bad apples within the tenant side of the orchard as there are on the landlord side and it is because of unsavoury characters in both parties that we need rules and regulations.
However, scrapping Section 21 does not forgo this and submitting a Section 8 with the provision of a valid reason is a far fairer way of ensuring that those in the right get the result they deserve.
But this goes beyond Section 21. We need to start breaking down the wall that exists between landlords and tenants so they realise that they are both as reliant on one another when it comes to getting by.
I think this is one area where the room-share sector is leading the way. Whether a professional or live-in landlord, you do not seem to find the friction between tenant and landlord that you do in the traditional lettings sector.
A rental property is still a home and it should be treated with the same love and respect by the tenant. The prospect of having it pulled from beneath your feet at a moment’s notice is not something we should even be arguing about.
David Smith, policy director, Residential Landlords Association
The majority of tenancies in the private rented sector are ended by the tenants in amicable circumstances. In a minority of cases, however, such as instances of rent arrears or tenants committing anti-social behaviour, landlords rightly need the assurance that they can swiftly regain possession of their property. It is having the confidence that they can quickly reclaim their property in legitimate circumstances that enables landlords to provide the homes to rent we desperately need.
Under the current law, landlords can repossess properties via the Section 8 route. This provides 18 different grounds that landlords can use to seek to repossess a property through the courts.
It includes landlords wanting to live in the property, tenant anti-social behaviour, rent arrears and a landlord receiving a notice from the Home Office that their tenants no longer have the right to rent. This system, however, is not fit for purpose.
In cases of landlords wanting to live in the property they are renting, they can only do so if they have given notice that they might move in at the start of a tenancy. This would not work under the government’s plans for indefinite tenancies.
The burden of proof required to evict anti-social tenants is so high that it is virtually impossible to make proper use of this ground, leaving disruptive tenants to cause misery for their neighbours. A recent court case has found that landlords who seek to evict tenants on the orders of the Home Office are in breach of equality law.
The list could go on, but it is underpinned by a court system that is failing the sector.
The government’s own data shows that it takes almost 23 weeks from a landlord seeking possession of a property through the courts to it actually happening. That is why Section 21 notices, more accurately described as ‘no explanation’ repossessions, are needed to maintain landlord confidence. Only once landlords have confidence in a reformed Section 8 process and a fully fledged housing court should the government look at the future of Section 21.