Section 21 in < 60seconds
The UK news is covering Section 21 stories (s21), when England finally woke up to a subject that is old news in Scotland and already announced as a consultation in Wales. So what is section 21?
Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 allows landlords to serve notice to tenants under certain ‘grounds’. For example, a tenant breaching their contract
However, Section 21 of the same Housing Act allows a landlord to do the same but without having to provide any reason for serving notice. An online landlord advice site sums up why people dislike Section 21 “..If the tenant has done nothing wrong, you can use Section 21…”
Section 21 has been associated with ‘retaliation evictions’ and ‘No fault evictions’ – when the tenant complains about something perfectly reasonable, the landlord kicks them out. That is wrong and organisations like Shelter Cymru have provided numerous examples of it happening in Wales. You may have seen BBC UK (England) were interviewing tenants who had been really hit by this.
Landlords defending s21 believe that if you make it harder to evict, the less likely they will be to rent properties out which leads to reduced availability and rent increases. I know Landlords are often portraited as ‘the bad guys’ but many are every-day people trying to invest in their future. Data shows it takes over five months from a private landlord applying to the courts for repossession to it actually happening. The RLA argues that (like Scotland), we need to reform the grounds to repossess properties and court systems before making changes to Section 21.
There is a balance that needs to be found: If you make it harder to evict, landlords may not take the risk on more vulnerable, younger people with no renting history, families with pets etc, however, we must end retaliation evictions - it's just not acceptable.
As with most housing reform, we should look to Scotland. The Scots got rid of Section 21 but at the same time clarified/strengthened Section 8 so that Landlords could still serve notice for legitimate reason in a timely manner. It seems to have gone well. Technically it’s called something else (not S21 & S8) in Scotland they call it section 33 but you don’t worry about that!)
Shelter Cymru’s case for scrapping Section 21
The Residential Landlord Association set out their case for keeping Section 21.
Update from RLA Wales meeting with our First Minster