OPINION: Weak policing of bad landlords is the problem – not Section 21 evictions

Section 21 evictions have been blamed for the UK's rising homelessness problem, but in reality they are just the sympton of weak enforcement of existing rental sector laws.

Group of campaigners against evictions outside a crown court

Few of us care about how fast the AA will rescue us if our car breaks down – until it happens and there you are on the side of the road helplessly watching the minutes tick by.

And it’s the same for evictions. Not many landlords or their lettings agents really care about the intricacies of the repossession process until the cold-sweats, sleep deprivation and financial black holes created by a difficult tenant kick in.

Does this matter? Well, both the Tories and Labour want to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, the most common way for troublesome tenants to be evicted.

‘No-faults’ are used routinely by landlords and letting agents to evict tenants who have stopped paying the rent but who won’t move out of their rented homes, or who have been behaving anti-socially.

Nevertheless, the big rental sector charities have spent years calling for this kind of eviction to be banned, saying Section 21 evictions are the root cause of homelessness.

What is often unsaid in the mainstream national media, is that the vast majority of Section 21 evictions are used by landlords who are trying to evict tenants who cannot or will not pay the rent and not to ‘intentionally make them homeless’.

While reasonable landlords and agents will do their utmost to help tenants who are struggling financially, there comes a time when the losses are too big, and new and more reliable tenants are needed.

Repossession path

The trouble is that Section 21 evictions, which have for years been the fastest and least-costly repossession path, are abused by some landlords looking to evict tenants who are complaining about a lack of repairs or poor landlord behaviour – known as ‘revenge evictions’.

The stories that campaigners like Shelter unearth can be chilling but this is a result of non-existent enforcement of existing renting rules, not Section 21 evictions themselves.

Most ‘no fault evictions are used by good landlords to evict ant-social tenants or those in serious arrears. Banning Section 21 will mean more cost for them to achieve that, and lead to evictions taking longer. It won’t stop people being evicted, as many campaign groups claim.

Nigel Lewis is Head of Content at The Negotiator.

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