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

As my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter said, there is the experience of Scotland. It is early days, because the Scottish changes took effect only last year, but they give us some guidance as to how it might be possible to move forward. It will be good to see how it works when we start to get some figures.

Clearly, where landlords have a legitimate wish to recover the property, because they wish to live in it or make use of it—if it is a landlord’s home and they wish to return to it—that would clearly be a ground. There has to be some guard against that being open to abuse, however, which seems to be the case from some anecdotal evidence in the Scottish experience.

There are also fault-based grounds, such as where a tenant commits antisocial behaviour or is in rent arrears. There are grounds—that work has already been done—and it is completely reasonable that they should be allowed to exist and that, when a landlord takes a claim forward, it should be reasonably expeditious for them to pursue it.

The Government are consulting on the housing court, which I have mixed views about. It is important that tenants should have their interests represented and be legally aided in doing so, but there are questions about how that might operate, so the debate is certainly worth having.

It is absolutely right that a balance has to be struck. The work is well under way to provide an alternative, and that has to be done in consultation with the landlords associations, which have made a thoughtful and responsible contribution. However, we should be concerned about the homelessness experience; the scale of the use of section 21; the insecurity that tenants are experiencing, which has a disproportionate impact on families with children and on vulnerable tenants, as was well explored by the Rugg review; and the dangerous wider perception in the public’s mind that the private rented sector is not somewhere where they can expect to enjoy long- term security, but somewhere where they are utterly disempowered in cases where that is a reality.

The picture varies in different parts of the country. It is particularly acute in places such as London, where rents have been highest, so I am also extremely pleased that the Mayor of London has undertaken some work on section 21, security and affordability, and that he will make a research-based contribution to the debate.

I urge the Government not to throw this baby out with the bath water. The Government are rightly interested in greater security of tenure, but the framework of section 21 has existed for 30 years and the landscape has been utterly transformed in that time, so we need a fundamental review of the way the system works to make sure that it acts in the interests of tenants as well as landlords. The time is ripe for a more radical approach to resolving the issue and to making sure that tenants get a fair deal.