Confirmed: Lib Dems will scrap Section 21 if they win power

As expected, the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Bournemouth has backed a motion calling for the scrapping of Section 21 – effectively what the government is already doing.

Those moving and supporting the motion, including Lib Dem MEP Luisa Porrit, gave a familiar list of shortcomings in parts of the private rental sector including too few homes, too high rents, insecurity of tenure and what they claimed to be the widespread exploitation of tenants by landlords.

One of the speakers for the scrapping of S21 said too many landlords were “Quick Buck Merchants.”

However, three speakers – including councillors Tumi Hawkins and Jill Hope from Cambridgeshire and Nottinghamshire respectively – spoke against the motion, explaining that it was an unfair burden on landlords to lose S21 powers on top of the fiscal and regulatory restrictions introduced by the Conservative governments of recent years.

“Let’s not jump on the bandwagon of punishing landlords” delegates were told by Hawkins, while Hope told the conference: “These [landlords] are not like the Duke of Westminster…they’re ordinary folk trying to make a little bit of return on their savings.”

However, in a show of hands at the end of the debate, the motion was carried.

In response, ARLA chief executive David Cox described the decision as another attack on the sector.

“Although in the majority of cases there is no need for Section 21 to be used, there are times when a landlord has no choice but to take action and evict tenants from a property. The proposed commitment will only increase pressure on the sector and discourage new landlords from investing in buy-to-let properties. This comes at a time when demand is dramatically outpacing supply, and rent costs are rising.

“ARLA Propertymark will be engaging with the Liberal Democrats to ensure they fully understand the consequences of any changes, and all changes are based on evidence, so landlords have the ability to regain their properties if needed.”

This is the motion in full:

“Conference notes with concern: 

“(i) the growing numbers of people across the UK reliant upon the private rental sector for their homes, including families on low incomes or receiving benefits, single parents, people living with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, older people, and people who are from two or more of these categories.

“(ii) The use of Section 21 of the Housing Act to evict private rental tenants, via a no-fault eviction, where a landlord needs to provide no reason and needs to provide only two months’ notice, leaving the tenant to cover moving an relocation costs irrespective of their circumstances.

“(iii) The impacts that no-fault evictions have on those evicted, who may not have sufficient funds to find new accommodation in the time available, including forcing children to move schools, tearing people away from their friends and communities, and leaving tenants financially compromised and requiring support from the state.

“(iv) The impact that the threat of a no-fault eviction has on tenants who cannot plan their lives when they have no confidence where their home will be in 12 months’ time or are intimidated into not complaining about disrepair or mistreatment. 

“(v) The impact that no fault evictions have on local authorities, increasing the numbers of people they must support as a consequence of being forces into homelessness following a S21 eviction.

“Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment to:

“(a) Reform the private rental sector to make it fairer for private renters.

“(b) Provide support for private renters to enable them to safely report health and safety issues in rented properties.

“(c) Support renters by enabling local authorities to create and maintain registers of landlords providing private rental properties for lease.

“Conference calls for~:

“1. The abolition of S21 by reform of the Housing Act 1988.

“2. The reform of court process (as has happened in Scotland) to enable landlords to have easier access to justice in the event that tenants are found to be in breach of their tenancy agreements.

“3. Further work to be undertaken with tenant and landlord organisations and groups to explore the opportunities for further reform and improvement of the private rental sector, such as revising the current assured short-hold tenancy legislation to encourage the use of long-term tenancies as a standard.”

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