Groups representing landlords and letting agents have called for section 21 repossessions to be retained in the private rented sector unless and until a new system is in place that provides landlords with the same level of confidence about repossessing properties in legitimate circumstances.
Bodies including ARLA Propertymark, Safe Agent, the Residential Landlords Association, the National Landlords Association and Landlord Action have joined together to form a ‘Fair Possessions Coalition’ and unite in warning that plans to abolish section 21 repossessions without a new system in place would undermine investment in the sector. Even more so, this would be done at a time when private landlords are relied upon on to provide homes for one in five households in England.
The Coalition said in a statement that, whilst landlords much prefer to have good tenants staying long-term in their properties, they also require certainty that in legitimate circumstances - such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour - they can swiftly and easily repossess their properties in much the same way social landlords and mortgage lenders can.
It’s been argued that the current ‘Section 8’ process, which would be the main replacement for section 21 and under which landlords can repossess properties based on a number of grounds, is not fit for purpose and does not provide the level of certainty currently offered by section 21.
The Coalition says the current judicial process for dealing with possession cases is confusing for tenants and takes an average of over five months from a landlord applying to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening.
As such, rather than tinkering with the existing system, the Coalition urges a complete overhaul of the regulations and processes enabling landlords to repossess their properties. This new system, it argued, should outline clear grounds for repossession that are unable to be exploited by criminal landlords or unreliable tenants.
It also said that the establishment of a new, dedicated, fully funded housing court should be directly linked to the reform, making better use of mediation by taking into account models in use abroad. These courts should also happen in local venues such as schools and community centres, making ‘the process less intimidating and easier for landlords and tenants to obtain the swift and accessible justice they need if the relationship is to work effectively’.
The Coalition belive that such reforms must form part of a wider package of measures, including welfare reforms to better support vulnerable tenants to sustain tenancies, as well as smart taxation to encourage the development of the new homes for private rent that the country requires.
In full, the Fair Possessions Coalition consists of: ARLA Propertymark; Cornwall Residential Landlords Association; Country Land and Business Association; East Midlands Property Owners; Eastern Landlords Association; Guild of Residential Landlords; Humber Landlords Association; iHowz; Landlord Action; Leeds Property Association; National Landlords Alliance; National Landlords Association; North West Landlords Association; Portsmouth and District Private Landlords' Association; Residential Landlords Association; Safe Agent; South West Landlords Association; and Theresa Wallace (Chair, The Lettings Industry Council).
A fully copy of the statement sent to the government can be seen here.