‘We must take the lead on possessions for the sector to survive’
While Covid-19 has dominated all our lives since the start of the year the Government is expected to push ahead with its plans for reform the PRS as we enter 2021.
Plans to abolish Section 21 repossessions – so-called ‘no fault’ evictions’– were announced in December last year as part of the Government’s Renters’ Reform Bill.
The response to the proposals for the bill can, at best, be described as mixed, with landlords rightly worried about the impact that repealing Section 21 will have on their ability to repossess their rental homes should they need to.
However, the Government is adamant that this is the direction of travel, and it is now up to us to put forward compelling, evidence-based plans detailing how these changes can work in a way that can benefit landlords and tenants. #
Essentially this means keeping good tenants in their homes, while retaining the ability to repossess where there is legitimate reason for example anti-social behaviour or non-payment of rent.
It is with this in mind that we at the NRLA have drawn up our own proposals outlining how the scheme should work, following extensive consultation with our landlord members, partner organisations and senior members of the judiciary.
In our submission to Government, we have included a clear and comprehensive list of grounds upon which landlords may legitimately regain possession of their properties.
These include circumstances in which the landlord or a family member want to move into the property, or they want to sell it or carry out major renovation works.
They would also be able to repossess where the tenant had built arrears, or was committing antisocial or criminal behaviour, where the terms of the tenancy agreement had been breached or where the tenant has caused damage.
A full list of all the proposed grounds and their conditions can be found here.
We also want to see the creation of a new, publicly funded conciliation service, similar to the employment dispute body, ACAS to offer support when problems arise.
This would seek to resolve disagreements between landlords and tenants without the stress and costs associated with going to court – with legally binding consequences should either party breach any agreement reached.
Where landlords failed to abide by the terms of the agreement, they would be banned from being able to re-possess the property on the same grounds for six months. Where renters did so, the case would be fast tracked through the courts.
Throughout the process both parties would be able to access the advice and support they needed to make their case, ensuring it is fair.
There is currently a huge backlog of possession cases and the conciliation service is one way to reduce the pressure by keeping cases out of court where possible.
While the abolition of Section 21 was the aspect of the Renters’ Reform Bill stealing the headlines, it will also include commitments to strengthen landlords’ rights to repossess, with valid reason, improve access to the database of rogue landlords and agents and improve standards.
The Government is also looking to introduce lifetime deposits – an idea first mooted by the NRLA – which would allow tenants to ‘move’ their deposit between tenancies, rather than trying to raise a ‘second deposit’ when moving.
While we are supportive of the idea in principle, we have stressed in our submission it is vital the new system in no way discourages landlords from making valid claims for damage to properties, or leaves them out of pocket when deposits transfer.
Landlords cannot be expected to give up their right of recourse to a security deposit until such time that they are satisfied there will be no need to make a claim against it.
Now our proposals have been sent to government, the next step is for you to get involved.
If you support the work we are doing we’d ask you to give your feedback and spread the word via social media.
We also look to share landlords’ stories to showcase real life examples of the challenges landlords face, so if you have a story to tell, please get in touch.
It is important Ministers know there is support for this approach on the ground. It is in all our interests to keep tenants in their homes where possible and we need to show we are willing to engage to ensure the reforms are ones that will work for landlords and tenants alike.