Goodbye to Section 21?

It was announced recently that the Government intends to consult on abolishing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. This is the provision that allows residential landlords to recover possession of their property without citing any fault or reason, other than a wish to bring the tenancy to an end. This has come about because (it is claimed) s.21 has been abused by some landlords who use it to get rid of tenants who complain about the condition of their property. As usual it is the unscrupulous that have spoilt things for the many decent and ethical landlords out there who, for whatever reason, from time to time will need to regain possession of their properties.

Section 21, particularly the accelerated procedure, which often allows a landlord to recover possession without the need for a court hearing is a popular and comparatively cheap method for regaining possession of a property. There is no need to prove fault or to demonstrate arrears of rent or any misconduct by the tenant and it is a significant assistance to landlords. Many decent landlords will be left wondering how this will affect them and we shall have to await the outcome of the consultation process. However it is certain to involve them in more expense and delay and even with the so-called accelerated procedure it can still take four to six months to regain possession if the tenant refuses to move out and a court application has to be issued.

The trend over the last few years has been to try and “squeeze out the accidental landlord” i.e the people who have acquired properties through inheritance, or getting together with a partner who then rents out their property or they have had some extra money and have used it as part of their investment strategy. Those types of people have found over the last few years that the Government has moved against them by altering the provisions on tax relief and stamp duty. The trend certainly seems to be going towards ensuring that only “professional” landlords remain in the marketplace. At a time when many, particularly younger people, struggle to find the money for deposits to put down to buy their own houses this seems like an unusual move and may in fact make the provision for affordable housing for people who are not on the property ladder even harder than it already is.