Agents need ‘clarity’ after government commits to scrapping Section 21

Posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Boris Johnson’s government has once again pledged to reform renters’ rights by scrapping no-fault evictions in England.

Proposals designed to overturn Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act, which permits landlords to evict tenants without reason and with two months’ notice, were initially proposed by Theresa May back in April 2019.

The Conservative manifesto pledged that “private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without a good reason”.

The long-awaited protections for tenants against so-called “no-fault” evictions appeared in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, with Section 21 evictions likely to be abolished later this year.

Tom Mundy, COO at rental experts Goodlord, commented: “After so many delays, the Queen’s Speech has put the Renters’ Reform Bill back on the table. Although the Bill is set to introduce policies which divide opinion in the sector, the ongoing uncertainty around when these proposals would come into law weren’t helping anyone. Now that it’s clearly back on the agenda, the government must provide letting agents, landlords and tenants the clarity they need to move forward with confidence.

“Uncertainty is no good for the market, especially one that’s grappling with an ever-changing set of regulations and new requirements. The industry now needs clear timelines so they can prepare accordingly. We hope this is a decisive step forward that will end the years of dithering, but the proof will be in what happens next.”

Daniel Evans, chair of the AIIC, believes that while it is “a positive” that a timetable for the White Paper and the Renters Reform Bill has now been set out, agrees greater clarity is required.

He commented: “I don’t think anyone in the lettings industry will be jumping for joy until these plans start to see the light of the day.

“Will the government – distracted by everything from partygate to war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis and its own internal strife, worsened by the recent poor showing at the local elections – be able to keep its eye on the ball with something as major as widespread rental reform?

“We’ve heard for many years the plans to scrap Section 21, introduce a compulsory landlord register [as is already the case in Scotland] and implement lifetime deposits, but we’ve never really got any further than that.

“This latest announcement is a step in the right direction, but as we’ll remember from previous Queen Speeches, this isn’t the first time rental reform has been promised. Equally, pledges made in the Queen's Speech aren’t always adhered to, so I think it’s important the industry doesn’t get too far ahead of itself.

“We all need a bit more clarity and certainty, and hopefully now we know the direction of travel with regards to rental reform, the momentum behind it will no longer falter.”

Neil Cobbold, PayProp UK managing director, has welcomed the remarks in the Queen’s Speech on the timetable for rental reform, but says that there remain a number of question marks over how it will be implemented.

He commented: “The changes to Section 21, and a beefed-up Section 8, have been on the agenda for some time, but they continue to strongly divide opinion. The government will need to manage them carefully to ensure the interests of landlords, agents and tenants alike are catered for.”

Also responding to confirmation in the Queen’s Speech that the government will bring forward its planned Renters Reform Bill to abolish Section 21 repossessions, Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “We welcome the Government’s acceptance that reforms to the rented sector need to strengthen the ability of landlords to tackle anti-social tenants and those with repeated rent arrears. We will continue to work to ensure that these and other grounds for possession are fair and workable.

“Whilst we support proposals for an Ombudsman to cut the number of possession cases needing to go the court, this cannot be a substitute for proper court reform as well. At present, it can take almost a year for a private landlord to repossess a property through the courts where they have a legitimate reason to do so. This is simply not good enough.”

Via @PropertyIndustryEye