Cautious optimism for the end of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions
The end of section 21 evictions ‘no-fault’, or ‘Renters’ Reform’ as the government now calls the policy, has been a mainstay of discussions about housing law for several years. Section 21 allows a landlord to evict a tenant for no reason at all, as long as he ticks all the right boxes.
The policy was first proposed by government back in July 2019, when James Brokenshire was the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government. A consultation ran and closed in October 2019.
The consultation received over 20,000 responses, at the time, the most responses ever received to a consultation run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG).
Since then, MHCLG has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, allegations of corruption against a Secretary of State, five new Secretaries of State, three Prime Ministers, and a name change (now known as the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, or DLUHC).
In the midst of all that, in June 2022, three years after the consultation ran, a white paper responding to the consultation on ending section 21, as well as parallel consultations on lifetime deposits, a rogue landlord database, and minimum safety standards was published.
The world feels very different now to in July 2019, but the case for ending section 21 remains at least as strong as ever.
Recent research revealed a 121% increase in applicants who have been made homeless as a result of a section 21 eviction notice. In the second quarter of 2022, new possession claims were up by 160% compared to 2021, and possession orders were up 164%. These are mostly claims brought by private landlords (social landlords generally cannot use section 21) who now make up a third of all possession claims.
More and more people are losing their homes due to section 21. These people are then presenting as homeless to their local council – a fraught experience for applicants, and ultimately an expensive one for government (in 2020/2021 an estimated £1.4 billion was spent on temporary accommodation for homeless households).
And, in the end, most homeless applicants get, at best, an offer of a private sector tenancy, which could itself be ended by a section 21 notice just 6 months later.
That said, there is cause for cautious optimism as Michael Gove returns to the role of Secretary of State for DLUHC.
The white paper published in summer 2022 was under his previous premiership and made several new commitments to make it easier for tenants to stay in their homes. It even made a new commitment to legislate to ban ‘no DSS’ adverts for rented properties (although how useful such legislation would be given recent research revealed that 98% of advertised rental properties are not affordable to claimants of UC or Housing benefit remains to be seen).
Since the white paper, Liz Truss’ government announced that proposals to reform the private rented sector and end section 21 would not go ahead, before apparently changing their minds.
But, for those in favour of the end of ‘no fault evictions’ (and the policy does have the constructive engagement of major landlord representative body, the NRLA), Gove’s reappointment is worthy of cautious optimism. He made some big, bold commitments last time he was in this office, and has a reputation for achieving his objectives.
Anyone in the industry knows that the housing crisis is becoming more serious every day. Dare we hope that, some day soon, that trend will start to reverse?
If you have been threatened with eviction, or are being unlawfully evicted by your landlord please contact our housing team 020 7426 0400 or email office@firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.