Section 21 Evictions

Part of Select Committee on Education – in Westminster Hall at 1:38 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Westminster North 1:38 pm, 6th December 2018

That point is absolutely central to the argument, and I will come to it in a minute.

On the point about the behaviour of a minority of landlords not doing a great deal for the cause of the majority, there was also on social media the letting agent who said in respect of the payment of a tenant’s renewal fees:

“As far as I can see if the tenant doesn’t pay the renewal fee, DON’T renew the tenancy. Simples…
You could always serve S21 and replace them.”

That cavalier attitude to security of tenure is completely unacceptable, but we have a legislative framework that allows a number of landlords to behave in that way. I say to people who are doing that, “Guys, you are really not helping your own cause or the cause of the business sector for private rented tenure, and I would advise you to think very carefully about the way you express yourselves.”

What has happened to the use of section 21 over time, and why do we need to consider our longer term approach? It is extremely hard to obtain accurate information from landlords about their use of section 21 notices, and the large majority of tenants who leave assured shorthold tenancies do so after the service of a notice without court proceedings. I think that in the private rented sector debate last week Bob Blackman said—I believe this to be true, and have seen anecdotal evidence that it is true—that there are landlords who issue section 21s routinely at the end of a six-month period in order to be prepared for exercising those rights at the end of 12 months. That builds in to tenants’ experience instability of exactly the kind that hon. Members have mentioned today.

The actual number of section 21 notices served is unknowable. However, we know that in 2017 there were 21,439 possession claims under both section 8 and section 21 and 6,260 actual possessions, and a further 29,601 claims and 12,953 possessions under the accelerated procedure. That is a lot of uses of section 21.

We also know from Government homelessness statistics that the ending of a private tenancy on a no-fault basis has become the single largest cause of homelessness, currently representing more than half of all homelessness applications. That is critical. An analysis by Generation Rent claims that 92% of the rise in homelessness cases caused by the end of a private tenancy in London, which of course has the largest share, regionally, of national homelessness cases, can be explained by no-fault evictions. The figure is only slightly lower—88%—outside the capital.