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.
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.
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 2021, insecure 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.”
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.
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.