15:49 PM, 3rd May 2022, About 3 weeks ago 21
The NRLA has sent an open letter to the Chief Executive of Shelter, Polly Neate CBE, looking to redress the imbalance of the latest Shelter press release:
I write following the publication of Shelter’s research: “Every seven minutes a private renter is served a no-fault eviction notice despite a government promise to scrap them three years ago.”
As you know, there are many issues around homelessness and the private rented sector on which Shelter and the NRLA can agree. However, this publication presented a disappointingly one-sided picture, which has the potential to create needless anxiety for tenants that their landlord is about to evict them for no reason.
In fact, official data shows that it is only in a small minority of cases where tenancies are ended by either a landlord or letting agent. The most recently available English Housing Survey data on the issue, from 2019/20, shows that amongst those private renters whose tenancy ended over the previous year, 91.9% were ended by the tenant themselves rather than by being asked to leave by their landlord or letting agent.
This all demonstrates that, as we hear from our members, far from looking for ways to evict tenants, the vast majority of landlords much prefer to sustain tenancies and keep tenants in their homes.
Shelter’s press release also failed to explain the restrictions that are currently placed on the ability of landlords to issue a Section 21 notice. As you know, Section 21 notices are invalid in
the following circumstances:
– If a landlord has failed to protect a tenant’s deposit in an approved scheme.
– If a landlord has failed to obtain a licence for a property as is legally required.
– The landlord has not issued the tenant with a How to Rent booklet.
– The landlord has not issued the tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate.
– The landlord has not maintained the gas safety record for the property since the tenancy began.
– The landlord has not used the required Form (6A) to issue the notice.
– Measures in the Deregulation Act 2015 protect tenants from eviction when they raise a
complaint about the condition of their home.
– Tenants can also challenge in a tribunal any rent increase they deem to be unfair, which
provides protection against excessive rent increases being used as a way of forcing tenants
out of a property.
The NRLA is not opposing the Government’s decision to end Section 21 and has been at the forefront of discussing and proposing a viable alternative. The private rented sector has increased significantly in the past ten years and is being asked to house people for whom the PRS was never intended. However, as our proposals for a new system make clear4, Section 21 cannot simply be scrapped without the associated reforms needed to ensure that a new system is fair and workable for both tenants and landlords. This has got to include clear and comprehensive grounds whereby landlords can repossess their properties with a legitimate reason – as most landlords do at present.
I know and welcome that Shelter agrees with this, as noted in the comments made to the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year5 by Policy Manager, Ruth Ehrlich, who stated that Shelter, “completely understand and recognise that, with scrapping section 21, there will need to be reforms to section 8.” She went on to note that removing Section 21 would mean, “the grounds for possession will need to be expanded.”
In a post Section 21 environment there will be a need to address situations in which tenants have built disproportionate rent arrears. NRLA also wants to ensure that support is in place to prevent rent arrears in the first place. This must include unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance, making enhancements to the broken Universal Credit system and doing more to boost the supply of all types of housing including those for private rent. However, where tenancies fail there has to be a sensible way for landlords to regain possession of their properties.
Speaking to the Public Accounts Committee Ruth Ehrlich also noted: “We would not want to see any changes to a mandatory rent arrears ground.” We assume from this that Shelter has appropriately distanced itself from suggestions that rent arrears should only be a discretionary ground to repossess a property. This would send a dangerous message that somehow paying rent should
be optional, which would not be acceptable in any other walk of life.
I hope this letter sets out clearly why NRLA has found your publication to be such an unbalanced account of what is happening now, and what needs to happen if Section 21 is to be abolished.
Rather than sensationalising the issue, we would welcome discussion about how you would propose tackling these important matters, particularly the problem of anti-social behaviour perpetrated by tenants. Simply continually calling for the abolition of section 21 without any discussion of the delicate issues associated with its removal, as articulated here, does nothing to advance the debate.
Given the interest in this matter, and in order to provide much needed balance to the report, we will be making this letter publicly available. I look forward to hearing from you.
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