A ban on no-fault ‘Section 21’ evictions in England will be indefinitely delayed until the court system is reformed, the government has confirmed.
The Renters Reform Bill, considered one of the most significant pieces of legislation for private renters and landlords in the past thirty years, was debated in the House of Commons for the first time at the end of October.
Aiming to improve tenant security in the private rental sector, the bill outlines significant changes for the industry, including the move to rolling, periodic tenancies and the introduction of a new digital property portal.
However, it’s the scrapping of no-fault evictions that has gained the most attention since the bill was first outlined in 2019. With the aim of “striking a balance between protecting tenants’ security and landlords”, the Renters Reform Bill plans to eliminate Section 21 evictions completely and introduce new possession grounds for landlords.
Following the government's initial publication of the bill in May 2023, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) spearheaded a campaign amongst landlord lobby groups, calling for urgent justice system reforms.
The NRLA argued that legitimate possession cases suffer from extensive backlogs in court, resulting in repossession hearings taking over six months to process. Without a viable alternative, abolishing Section 21 could render property management more challenging for landlords and discourage investment in the rental market.
It seems this lobbying has not been in vain, as the government’s October 23rd update revealed that the ban on Section 21 evictions will not be introduced until reforms to the court system have taken place.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove announced that the ban cannot be enacted before a series of “vital” improvements are made in the court system, including digitising the court process, and providing more advice and counsel to landlords.
Ignoring calls from MPs to introduce housing courts to deal with a backlog of eviction cases, Gove refused to put a timescale on how long the court improvements would take to achieve, with many now speculating that it could take years for Section 21 to be abolished.
Progress of the Renters Reform Bill through the House of Commons has been unexpectedly slow so far. Now passed its Second Reading, it will have to move through three further parliamentary stages before it becomes law, with major changes expected to be made to the bill as it progresses.
The NRLA have warned that "uncertainty" over the future of the bill had made it "difficult for landlords and renters to plan for the future".
NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle commented: “Reform of the rental market will only work if it has the confidence of responsible landlords every bit as much as tenants.”
As the Renters Reform Bill moves into its committee stage, the proposed legislation will be subject to further scrutiny by MPs. Due to be completed by Tuesday 5th December, new clauses and amendments to the bill are inevitable, and both tenants and landlords are encouraged to stay up to date with the latest changes.