Good news for landlords this week. The government has indicated that Section 21 evictions won’t be scrapped for the foreseeable future. The Renters Reform Bill – of which removing the right of landlords to no-fault evictions is a key part – will be put on hold until at least 2021.
As far as we’re concerned, this is a victory for common sense. At Ringley, we have always urged the Government to think long and hard before it ditches Section 21, so we believe this is the right decision at the right time. With the courts facing a backlog of evictions once the possessions ban is lifted, there will be enough litigation to wade through without an impending rule change to deal with.
Official figures point to the fact that only 10% of tenancies are ended by the landlord, not the tenant. This is because a long term tenant is a good investment. There is no void rent loss and less move-in, move-out wear and tear. But there are legitimate reasons why a buy-to-let landlord may need to evict someone when they have a change of circumstances. At the end of the day the property belongs to them and, within reason, they must be able to repossess it. Section 21 is a useful – and polite – way to evict a tenant when this becomes necessary.
Pre-lockdown the average time it was taking for a private landlord to repossess a property was nearly four months. That was far too long – and will now take even longer. So it is vital that repossessions are supported by an efficient court process.
Regardless of how useful a tool Section 21 may be, the Government proposes to effectively make tenancies open-ended, while at the same time strengthening the rights of landlords who want to recover their properties by giving the Section 8 process more teeth. As we have said in this blog before, getting this right will make or break any planned change in the law.
Last year, more than a third of buy-to-let landlords told a Landlord Today survey that they would consider selling their properties if the government axes Section 21; Another 33% said they would only continue being a landlord if “significant changes” are made to Section 8 first. The study also found that 70% of landlords would be less willing to consider a longer-term tenancy if Section 21 was no longer available to them, while 85% said they would be more selective with their choice of tenant.
So a change in the law could have unintended consequences. Our view is that all those calling for Section 21 should be careful what they wish for. If Section 8 is not strengthened to give landlords the ability to evict rogue tenants when they need to – and without excessive delays – the market may not be able to meet the demand for more rental homes that we will surely see as the economy inevitably falters post-pandemic.
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