I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the use of Section 21 evictions in the private rented sector.
It is a pleasure to open this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and to do so in the presence of the Minister. I know that she is responding to a debate on the private rented sector for the second time in two weeks. I apologise for that, but I think it reflects the extent of concern about some of the issues in this rapidly growing housing sector.
This debate is the culmination of a campaign that has been run on behalf of a number of organisations working with private tenants, including Generation Rent most specifically, the London Renters Union, the New Economics Foundation and ACORN, which run the End Unfair Evictions campaign and have encouraged people to speak up about their experiences. The social media presence on the issue demonstrated some quite extraordinary experiences that tenants have had with homelessness and insecurity as a result of the use of a section 21 notice.
The campaign has also received backing from Children England, Independent Age, Age UK London, Crisis, the Salvation Army, Mind, Z2K and Shelter, which gave us a very good briefing on the issue. More than 50,000 people signed a petition calling on the Government to give renters more stability and certainty in their homes by abolishing section 21, which gave us the opportunity to have the debate. The petition ran for 10 weeks and was handed to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government at the end of August.
What is section 21, and why are we specifically concerned about it? Most private and some social tenants now live in assured shorthold tenancies. In order to bring those tenancies to an end, landlords have two options: section 8, which enables a landlord to regain possession before the end of a tenancy on one or more of several different grounds, or section 21, for which the landlord must give two months’ notice of the intention to seek possession. On the expiry of that notice period, the tenancy is not ended, but the landlord can bring accelerated possession proceedings based on the section 21 notice. Unless there is a defence, which can only be that the notice is not valid, the courts must then grant a possession order. If the tenant does not leave, the landlord can seek a warrant of possession and a bailiff’s appointment for eviction.
Section 21 notices cannot be served under specified circumstances, such as when a deposit has not been protected, if the landlord does not have a required licence, after the issuing of a council improvement notice or if the landlord has failed to provide a valid energy certificate, gas safety certificate or a “How to Rent” guide.