Outlaw Section 21 Central Housing Group

Section 21: Solicitor urges government not to take knee-jerk action

A solicitor has urged the government not to reform or scrap Section 21 eviction powers simply on the basis of protests from individuals “seeking to present an overly simple view of the complex issues.”

Scott Goldstein, an associate at Payne Hicks Beach, has written on the website of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors that it would be preferable for legislators to first assess the effects that the Deregulation Act and Tenants Fees Act have had on the rental market before deciding what to do next.

“It may be better to strengthen the existing legislation so as to maintain good-quality housing in the private rented sector” he says.

Goldstein’s article – first published in the Property Journal – outlines in detail why the vast majority of the private rental sector’s participants do not favour the scrapping of Section 21 as pledged by the government, which claims legal action pursued via Section 8 would be an acceptable alternative.

“Ninety four per cent of residential landlords are individuals, who may need their rental income as quickly as possible to meet other financial commitments, such as paying their buy to let mortgage. In general, possession proceedings brought under section 8 are longer and more expensive than evictions under Section 21” he writes.

And he continues: “Section 8 notices may superficially appear more attractive than the Section 21 regime. This is because the court may order the tenant to repay rent arrears in possession proceedings commenced pursuant to a section 8 notice. However, a money order will be toothless if the landlord cannot enforce it against the tenant.

“In practice, the delays to the procedure mean that a landlord is often best advised to draw a line under the arrears and focus on removing the tenant as quickly as possible. Doing so makes Section 21 notices preferable to their Section 8 counterparts.”

Goldstein adds that with Brexit taking up so much Parliamentary time, changes to Section 21 may not be imminent anyway.

But he adds: “Nevertheless, there is a need for a reasoned debate that avoids knee-jerk reactions on either side. It can be seen that the relationship between private landlords and their tenants is better characterised as the swinging of a pendulum than as consistent and carefully thought-through policy.”

“Although no system is perfect, I would submit that what is needed is not revolution but an evolution of ideas and policy … Certainly, legislators ought to avoid being forced into action by groups seeking to present an overly simple view of the complex issues that arise from the relationship between residential landlords and tenants.”

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