UK Tenants “Betrayed”: No-Fault Evictions Ban Postponed Again!

Landlords worried about the loss of no-fault evictions can breathe a sigh of relief. At least for the time being…

In a letter to MPs, Michael Gove has announced something of a stay of execution for legislation that enables landlords to evict without cause, Section 21, as he proposed ensuring the courts work effectively before getting rid of no-fault evictions.

Labour’s Matthew Pennycook said that this ‘could take years’ and Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has called it a ‘betrayal’ of renters.

So let’s take a look at what this delay actually means for landlords – and tenants.

What is a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction?

When using Section 21 the landlord doesn’t have to give a reason for eviction. It’s therefore a much quicker and easier process for the landlord than using Section 8, where you have to prove fault on the tenant’s side and the tenant is able to defend themselves in court.

Section 21 has been popular with landlords because of its ease and many will use it even when there IS a fault on the tenant’s side, such as anti-social behaviour or rent arrears, because it’s just a quicker and easier option. There is no defence possible and therefore, no court time required.

Why was Section 21 being banned?

In a bid to make things fairer for tenants, the 2019 Tory manifesto promised to abolish Section 21 no-fault evictions to provide more protection for tenants. This promise was backed by Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and, most recently, Rishi Sunak… with no movement towards actually getting rid of Section 21.

While it’s a hot topic of conversation, as the centrepiece of the Renter’s Reform Bill, this has been dragging on for four years now. Yes, we can cite the pandemic as one major reason for the delay, but at this rate, many are asking, will Section 21 EVER go?

Why has abolishing Section 21 been pushed back?

Gove has stated that they need to ‘reform the courts before we abolish section 21’. Which sounds like a great idea, right, as banning Section 21 will mean all eviction cases will have to go to court, which will massively extend the current average of 6 months to process possession claims. No one wants to be caught in that backlog.

The government has also pushed back on recommendations from industry experts that they should create a dedicated housing court, insisting that it’s more effective to improve the existing process. So what does that improvement look like?

Well, there’s quite a lot on the list…

  • Digitising the court process. This would make the process quicker and easier for landlords
  • Exploring the prioritisation of certain cases. Issues like anti-social behaviour could be prioritised
  • Improving bailiff recruitment and retention. In a bid to improve the efficiency of the process, more bailiffs are needed
  • Providing early legal advice for tenants. This would include helping them find a better housing solution
  • Strengthening mediation and dispute resolution. This would be part of the proposed new ombudsman, so landlords can avoid court as much as possible

Now, all of that sounds perfectly reasonable in theory, but there aren’t actually any defined goals. For example, we don’t know what the proposed ideal retention rate of bailiffs is, so there’s no way of knowing how close we are to that goal, to give us an idea of when that might be achieved.

The main concern here for tenants and tenants rights associations is that this ‘improvement’ process is simply a way to push getting rid of Section 21 permanently to the bottom of the government to-do list.

Is this u-turn bad news for tenants?

Angela Rayner certainly thinks that this is bad news for tenants, stating that the proposed ban had majority and cross-party support, but the Conservatives suggestion was an ‘underhand way’ to ‘delay keeping their promises to renters’. She added that:

The government plans to act as judge and jury in deciding when the courts have been sufficiently improved, meaning their manifesto pledge will likely not be met before the next election. This comes at a heavy price for renters who have been let down for too long already.

Angela Rayner, Deputy Labour Leader

City Hall has estimated that another 6 month delay could put 15,000 more Londoners at risk of facing no-fault evictions and Ben Twomey of Generation Rent added that ‘Section 21 evictions are the leading cause of homelessness.’

However, it’s worth noting that landlords NEED tenants. No landlord wants a void period because that means there’s no income coming from the property and they are therefore going to have to find the money for mortgage repayments, insurance and so on from their own pocket. That’s really not what landlords signed up for.

If you are a reliable tenant, who pays on time and takes good care of the property, you shouldn’t be too worried that your landlord wants to give you the boot. Keep the lines of communication open. Should something happen, like the landlord needing to sell up, a good relationship with your landlord means that you will have plenty of warning and a no-fault eviction shouldn’t be necessary.

Is the u-turn good news for landlords?

The loss of Section 21 has been a worry for landlords, who have used it as an easier route to eviction than Section 8, when they are faced with a non-paying or destructive tenant. Utilising Section 21 has meant they are able to get their property back quicker than having to prove grounds using Section 8.

So many landlords will be breathing a sigh of relief that they still have that option available to them – should they ever need it.

However, while the Section 21 ban has been kicked into the long grass for goodness knows how long, the Renters Reform Bill is still very much in progress.

Conservative MP Marco Longhi told LBC that he feels:

The consequences of this well-meaning legislation is a reduction in supply as landlords continue to leave the market.

Marco Longhi, Conservative MP

We know that the pressure on landlords has been mounting hugely and has led to landlords doing exactly that, leaving the market – many of whom have used Section 21 in order to sell up. While legislation that protects tenants is a good move – no reasonable landlord would object to this! – there does need to be more balance when it comes to reform, in order to keep landlords in the market.

After all, without landlords, where will tenants live?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this u-turn. Are you happy about it? Or were you unbothered by the ban in the first place? Are you more worried about other elements of the Renters Reform Bill?

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