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Debate in Westminster today is focussing on section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. Many organisations representing tenants have been campaigning for months to get this section of the Housing Act 2004 abolished, claiming it’s the leading cause of homelessness. From the National Landlords Association’s (NLA) perspective, it needs to remain in place.

What the difference between section 8 and section 21?

Section 8 is the process for regaining possession of a property when your tenant is in breach of their agreement. The landlord must provide evidence that the breach has occurred and, if the tenant doesn’t leave by the notice date, will need to attend a court hearing to regain possession. However, the process is currently fraught with difficulty due to the time it takes just to get an initial court date, which can then be delayed, increasing your costs. Tenants can also counter-claim if any maintenance or repairs weren’t completed – and this can be misused to extend the case even if the claim is false.

With section 21, landlords don’t need to provide a reason, so is often referred to as ‘no fault’. Due to the difficulties mentioned above (and in our previous blog: Section 8 is in dire need of reform), we’ve seen it used more and more instead of, or as well as, section 8. This means that, while you can’t recoup any rent arrears directly, you’re more likely to regain possession of your property after two months.

Why not just overhaul section 8?

We believe that section 8 urgently needs to be reformed. But section 8 can only be used when the tenant is in breach of their tenancy. Even if it does get reformed and the proposed housing court helps to expedite the possession process, removing section 21 leaves anyone who needs to either sell or move into the property themselves without a way to do so.

The obvious response to those trying to sell a property would be to do so with your tenants in situ. Some of you may be happy to do that, but it does limit the market to other landlords – and often a significant reduction in selling price, which may mean leaving the market is out of the question.

Those of you who need to regain possession of a property so you can move in yourselves face a similar conundrum. The majority of landlords only own one property. With the regulations making it harder to earn an income from a lettings business, it’s these landlords who are going to be hit hardest. And in some cases, it may be best for you to move into your investment property and sell the one you’ve been living in. In other cases, where you’ve had to move for work and have let your property rather than sell, the section 21 process is invaluable should you need to return to that property.

So what does need to happen?

As it stands, the current court processes are failing landlords and are not fit for purpose. The NLA’s latest possession survey highlights that it can take an average of 145 days to regain possession of a property using Section 8, at a cost of £5,730. When running a business, time and money is vital to its success, and with landlords consistently facing the risk of costly counter claims, this only further delays the process and compounds court costs.

We need landlords to be confident that they can regain possession of their properties in the event of a breach of tenancy to effectively manage their business risk.

We are calling for:

·         A review of court fees, which in some cases have doubled

·         Reform the section 8 process so landlords are not forced to use section 21 where there is a breach of tenancy

·         A review of court processes, to make them quicker and more consistent.

With the government launching a call for evidence on the processes surrounding eviction, you can help us reform the court processes for good by submitting your stories to contact@landlords.org.uk.

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6 December 2018 - 2:09pm