The Long Read: Tenants & Section 21 Eviction Notices

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, also known as “no fault” evictions, have risen to prominence and controversy in recent years as the legal method for landlords to rapidly evict tenants without having to raise any complaints. Some tenants in Pensand House & Marlborough Court have received a section 21 eviction notice.

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As long as all the paperwork is served correctly (this is very important as it is an offence under the 1977 Protection from Eviction Act if one doesn’t go through the proper legal channels), a tenant has no defence against a section 21 eviction. 

The result, much like a zero hour contract for workers, is a chronic state of insecurity for tenants which leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. Citizen Advice Bureau have found that nearly half of tenants who make a formal complaint about their housing suffer a “revenge eviction” via section 21, and with an inflated market landlords can easily push up rents or cash in on a sale.

In Kent, while overall repossessions are falling, section 21s account for an increasingly large share of evictions. From 2015 to the beginning of this year, analysis of data from Canterbury County Court shows that almost 1,700 housing  repossessions claims bought by private landlords, section 21 accounts for three quarters of the subsequent evictions. A number of housing solicitors we spoke to  who represent tenants every day of the week have said the risk of a section 21 puts such tenants in a position of considerable insecurity, and remember there is no hearing unless the paperwork is contested and in most tenant’s view, eviction feels personal, very personal. 

In the case of tenants at Pensand House & Marlborough Court it feels like the rug has been pulled from beneath their feet  and their worlds turned upside down, all for the sake of profit for an offshore company based in Gibraltar.

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Section 21 represents the power of one class of people, landlords, over tenants.

With the Scottish equivalent abolished last year, Generation Rent is part of a campaign pitting organised money against highly organised people in an attempt to scrap section 21 in England & Wales.

So how has this piece of legislation from 1988 gained such infamy? According to Nick Ballard an organiser with Acorn

  • “It’s the nationwide crisis in housing supply, and no rent controls, there is a massive incentive for landlords to pit tenants against each other, and seek whoever will pay the highest rent and evict anyone who can’t, or even sell up. Many landlords, but not all landlords are greedy, it’s a simple as that.”

Whether or not you agree with Ballard’s sentiment towards landlords, it’s hard to deny the attractive propositions offered by the crisis for those able to cash in. In Kent the average monthly rent in the private rental market for the year ending March 2018 was £856; this is below the average for England (£872).

With a quarter of all households set to be renting by 2021insecure rented housing is firmly on the mainstream agenda. Even our local MP Damian Collins, who is a landlord, and his Cabinet Chums are signalling intent to address the issue, though a recent plan for three year tenancies has been ditched.

But landlords have pushed back with vigour. In response to scrap section 21 the Residential Landlords Association’s policy director said:

  • “No good landlord will want to evict a tenant unless there is a major issue around rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.” 

The internet is now awash with warning articles about how landlords will be forced to pass costs of extra risks and regulation onto tenants, or even a mass exodus of buy to let landlords from the market, with renters paying the price.  

This line of argument doesn’t fly with Ballard. 

  • “I genuinely think it would be great if there was a mass exodus of landlords from the market. Landlords don’t build houses, they just own them. It wouldn’t change the number of houses in the country if they did, but it would change who could access to them and under what terms.” 

Another line of argument is that landlords should have the right to evict tenants, fault or no-fault. But Ballard says:

  • “If there hasn’t been a breach of contract, why would landlords want to evict, apart from greed?”

Many tenants who live in this insecure position accept renting out of homes is a business, and the tenants we have spoken to have said:

  • “landlords need to understand the social responsibility they have with these privileges.”

There are bad landlords like there are bad tenants, but many landlords are good landlords, as are the vast majority of tenants, it is not not a easy circle to square meanwhile tenants in places such as Pensand House & Malborough Court face eviction via section 21 just because the offshore landlord wishes to “upgrade” the building, to make a profit.

If you have received a section 21 the following is legal advice from a Housing Solicitor. We would also advise contacting the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Acorn or similar organisation for help and assistance.

Whether you are expected to leave the property at the expiration of Section 21 Notice

If you have been informed that you are expected to vacate the property on or before the expiration of the Section 21 Notice served on you.

That is not the case as the Council will state that you have made yourself intentionally homeless should you vacate the property at the expiration of your Section 21 Notice.

After the expiration of the Section 21 Notice, the landlord will have to file a claim for possession in court and upon filing this claim, the court will serve on you a claim pack with a defence form which you are expected to complete and send back to the court.

Once you get the pack, you should seek legal advice from a solicitor who will assist in preparing your defence and representing you in court.

Part of the defence which can be raised in the defence form is the validity of the Section 21 Notice and the parties to the proceedings.

Once the defence is filed, the court will then consider the case and where the court hold the view that parties should be heard, it will list the case for a hearing.

Where the court hold the view that it will not require to hear parties, it will make a possession order either in 14 days, or 28 days or 42 days.

Even at that stage, you are not expected to vacate the property, but we would advise that you take any order that you receive to the Housing Options of your local Council.

The next steps will then be the issuance of a warrant of eviction which will be served on you by the court bailiff. It will tell you the date and time that the bailiffs will be attend your property and at that stage, you will be expected to vacate the property.

Once you receive the Warrant of Eviction, you should take a copy to the council and at that point, the council will then take steps to rehouse you.

If you fail to keep to the arrangement and you vacate the property without following the due process and working with the council, you will be deemed to have made yourself intentionally homeless and the council might be reluctant to assist you.  

If you intend to go privately rented and not seek help with rehousing with the council, then you could leave at any stage of the proceedings when you find a suitable alternative accommodation.

With regards to the legal advice above, you follow it at your own risk and we take no responsibility for any action you take or derive from it. The legal advice as set out above is provided by a professional housing solicitor.

The Shepwayvox Team: Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful


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2 Comments on The Long Read: Tenants & Section 21 Eviction Notices

  1. As a landlord, this is a fair and balanced piece. I do have to say though I have used section 21 against tenants and had to sell several of my properties due to my other business having severe cash flow issues. I did not want to do this but was caught between a rock and a hard place.

  2. As you rightly point out not all landlords are bad as not all tenants are good. We provide a valuable service and banning s21 evictions would NOT be a sensible idea.

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