Section 21 – change is afoot

With the election less that a fortnight away Grant Saw take a look at the two main parties’ approaches to ‘no fault’ evictions.

If, as the polls predict, the Labour Party win a majority their manifesto sets out the approach they will take to regulate private residential tenancies albeit in broad brush terms:

We will immediately abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, prevent private renters being exploited and discriminated against, empower them to challenge unreasonable rent increases, and take steps to decisively raise standards, including extending ‘Awaab’s Law’ to the private rented sector.

Angela Rayner, the shadow Secretary for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has gone further saying that Labour will abolish section 21 ‘on day one’. Election hyperbole aside it does appear as though an incoming Labour administration will be moving briskly to introduce a bill to remove ‘no fault’ evictions.

The Conservatives are also promising to sweep section 21 away albeit on a more relaxed timetable. Their manifesto suggests:

We will pass the Renters Reform Bill that will deliver fairness in the rental market for landlords and renters alike. We will deliver the court reforms necessary to fully abolish Section 21 and strengthen other grounds for landlords to evict private tenants guilty of anti-social behaviour.

Their proposed court reforms appear to be a response to landlord’s concerns that abolishing section 21, and with it the accelerated procedure that allows landlords to obtain a possession order without a court hearing, will lead to long and expensive litigation to obtain possession orders.

In addition to setting up an Ombudsman (with the aim of reducing possession claims generally) the main court reforms proposed appear to be:

  1. an increase county court bailiff capacity;
  2. removal of paper-based processes (presumably by moving online);
  3. more adequate advice about court and tribunal processes; and
  4. more prioritisation of cases (eg possession where there is anti-social behaviour).

No lawyer working in the County Court could sensibly disagree with these proposals but there cannot be many who think they are happening any time soon.

Absent a draft Labour bill it is difficult to see precisely what an incoming Labour administration would seek to implement however Angela Rayner broadly supported the Tory Renters (Reform) Bill at the second reading stage in the Commons so it seems reasonable to suppose that a beefed-up version of this, likely including many of Labour’s committee stage amendments, will form the backbone of their proposals.

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