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Government Determined to Scrap Section 21

That the government plans to scrap Section 21 will be no surprise to any private sector landlord who keeps in touch with what is happening in the sector. Shelter and the CAB have been calling for it for years, believing that tenants were being unfairly evicted at the whim of the landlord. 

Statistics prove otherwise but simplify the data to ‘how many tenancies ended on a section 21’ provide the figures they use to put the blame for the homeless figures on the often innocent and abused landlord.

The Chartered Institute of Housing policy and practice officer David Pipe does not believe that scrapping section 21 will have the beneficial effects the Government expect on homeless figures.

Although eviction by a landlord is the top reason that a household becomes homeless, this does not provide concrete evidence that the landlord has behaved in a reprehensible manner; but as landlords seem to be the last to be asked, that information is unlikely to come to the attention of researchers. 

Whilst in 2010/11 15 per cent of those accepted as homeless had been evicted by a landlord (presumably on a section 21), 2017/18 saw this figure increase to 27 per cent.  A significant increase, but were all section 21’s issued because of the landlord’s spite or greed? I know, and so do you, that the majority of landlords want long-term, steady tenants, so why have so many been evicted, it appears, without reason? 

Decent landlords, even where their tenants have behaved badly, damaged property, fallen into rent arrears, will often have sympathy for tenants less fortunate than they have been. Tenants evicted for a reason, using a section 8, may find themselves judged ‘Intentionally homeless’ and therefore unlikely to be found statutorily homeless. They are then back to reliance on the private sector – a sector vilified and seeing the legislation and increased protection for the tenant as attacks on them. Will they continue to take tenants that may prove a risk and who they cannot evict without a good reason, such as rent arrears? Rent arrears are not the only unsociable thing that tenants do which a landlord may want to evict for!

I fear homelessness will continue to rise, irrespective of the continuance or otherwise of the section 21. Landlords will evict on a section 8, which will take less time and provide a black mark by the name of the tenant. Many landlords are gradually relinquishing their portfolios, fearing that without the section 21, they will be stuck with tenants who abuse them, abuse the property but continue to pay the rent and therefore, immune from eviction.

Will this be good for tenants? How can it be? There will be fewer properties available and those that are will find landlords, in attempting to protect themselves and their investments, will raise rents, increase deposits to the legal maximum, and ask for rent in advance and Guarantors. 

The Government need to spend time with the homeless, particularly those with families, to see how difficult it would be for some families to provide what some landlords will require before they let their valuable property investments to anyone that does not meet the standard they require in financial in-put before a tenancy is given.

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