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Consultation on the abolition of section 21

On 15 April 2019, the Government announced that “Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason”. This announcement was followed in July 2019 by the launch of a consultation process with submissions accepted up to 12 October 2019. The consultation paper proposes the abolition of section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Section 21 enables private landlords to repossess their properties from assured shorthold tenants without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘no-fault’ ground for eviction.

In addition to abolishing section 21, the consultation paper proposes improvements to strengthen/extend the existing Grounds for possession that are preceded by the service of a section 8 notice, particularly where the property is needed for the landlord’s or a family member’s use and where the landlord wishes to sell-up.

Why abolish section 21?

Private tenants, their representative bodies, and others working in the sector have long argued that the ability of landlords to terminate an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) at short notice, irrespective of whether this power is used, has a detrimental effect on tenants’ wellbeing. Research has highlighted evidence of tenants being reluctant to exercise their rights to secure repairs and/or challenge rent increases due to the ease with which landlords can evict them. Respondents to an earlier consultation exercise, Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, told the Government that:

…those renting from private landlords have been left feeling insecure by short fixed-term tenancies, unable to plan for the future or call where they live a home. This insecurity can have wide-ranging effects – from disrupting children’s education and the impact on mental health through to the cost of frequent moves undermining people’s ability to save for a deposit.

Early reactions to the announcement

There is a clear divide in opinion between organisations advocating on behalf of tenants and those advocating on behalf of private landlords. Broadly, tenant organisations support the abolition of section 21 while landlord bodies oppose it. The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) believes that a reformed and improved court system which has bedded-in, together with improvements to the Grounds for possession, should be introduced before section 21 is amended or abolished. Landlord organisations argue that there is a risk of landlords moving out of the sector, which could reduce the amount of housing available for households who cannot afford to buy and cannot access social rented housing.

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