Section 21 Eviction Ban To Be Indefinitely Delayed Until Court Reforms

Plans to abolish Section 21 evictions in England and Wales will be indefinitely delayed until after the court system is reformed, the government has confirmed.

Ministers initially vowed to end the right of landlords to evict tenants without needing a reason in 2019.

But housing secretary Michael Gove said it was “vital” to update the courts first.

The Renters Reform Bill, promised in the Tories’ 2019 election manifesto, was debated in the Commons for the first time yesterday. It passed without a vote, as is normally the case at this stage.

Labour accused the government of kicking the much-delayed proposals into the “long grass”, fearing that legal reforms would “take years” to complete.

Gove told Tory MPs that the ban cannot be enacted before a series of improvements are made in the court system, which is used by some landlords to reclaim possession of their homes.

Downing Street has not put a timescale on how long the promised reforms will take to achieve. This has allowed Labour’s shadow housing secretary Angela Rayner an opportunity to accuse the government of “betraying” renters with with a substandard deal to avoid confrontation with Tory MPs opposed to the plan.

She added that the government was “caving in” to its backbenchers, and Rishi Sunak needed to “find a backbone and stand up to his party”.

“I think we’ve said from the start the implementation will be phased and I don’t know exactly if there’s set timelines to that,” a No 10 spokesman said.

William Reeve, CEO of Goodlord, commented: “As the Renters (Reform) Bill receives its long awaited second reading in Parliament today, the government has indicated that it won’t proceed with abolishing section 21, so-called no fault evictions until “reforms to the justice system are in place”. It has further stated that the government will only continue with abolishing Section 21 when “sufficient progress has been made to improve the courts.”

“This is an unexpected announcement that could mark a potentially huge change for the sector and the trajectory of the bill. Under these conditions, it could take years for scrapping Section 21 to actually come into force. Interestingly, although still overall very opposed to the change, landlords had recently started to soften slightly in their position to the scrapping of Section 21. According to our research, in 2022 71% of landlords believed the abolition of Section 21 would have a negative impact on the sector. In 2023, this had dropped to 62%.

“However, the pressures on the courts service has long been flagged as a major issue with regard to these reforms, and it’s encouraging that the Government has recognised this. As the leading RentTech platform in the UK, supporting over 1 million tenancies, we are hearing about hundreds of proceedings issued annually, and we see on a weekly basis how the justice system in England is letting landlords and tenants down and accentuating the pressures the sector is under. We therefore support the Government’s ambition to digitise the courts: we need the private rented sector to operate under modern technology. We also urge the government to consider creating something rental-sector-specific, like Scotland’s First Tier Tribunal for Property and Housing, for England.

“The industry must stay on its toes as this Bill continues to evolve during its journey into law. Until this is on the statute books, agents and landlords should keep up to date on the latest details and prepare for all eventualities.”

Frankie Malpass, product lead at Vouch, added: “One of the key areas that the government has recognised is the impact of periodic tenancies on private student renters. Students generally have different renting needs compared to the wider private rental sector – with a greater requirement for cyclical tenancies – so the blanket switch to periodic tenancies doesn’t serve students or their landlords well.

“It’s therefore encouraging to see that this issue has been recognised by the Government by the introduction of a process to complete the tenancy at the end of the academic year, ready for a new cohort of students to move in, enabling students to line up their housing in advance.

“However, more specifics will be needed to ensure the concerns of student and student landlords have been truly addressed.”

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