04 Jun 2019
The Association of Residential Letting Agents is one of many industry groups in a new coalition calling for S21 repossessions to be retained until an adequate alternative is in place.
The new Fair Possessions Coalition has been created from local and national industry groups.
These include ARLA Propertymark; Cornwall Residential Landlords Association; Country Land and Business Association; East Midlands Property Owners; Eastern Landlords Association; Guild of Residential Landlords; Humber Landlords Association; iHowz; Landlord Action; Leeds Property Association; National Landlords Alliance; National Landlords Association; North West Landlords Association; Portsmouth and District Private Landlords’ Association; Residential Landlords Association; Safe Agent; South West Landlords Association; and Theresa Wallace, the chair of The Lettings Industry Council.
In a statement the Coalition notes that whilst landlords much prefer to have good tenants staying long term in their properties, they need certainty that in legitimate circumstances, such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, they can swiftly and easily repossess their properties in much the same way as social landlords and mortgage lenders.
It is argued that the current ‘Section 8’ process, under which landlords can repossess properties based on a number of grounds, is not fit for purpose and does not provide the level of certainty offered by Section 21.
The current judicial process for dealing with possession cases is confusing for tenants and takes an average of over five months from a landlord applying to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening.
Instead of tinkering with the system, the Coalition calls for a comprehensive overhaul of the regulations and processes enabling landlords to repossess their properties. It should lay out clear grounds for repossession that are unable to be exploited by criminal landlords or unreliable tenants.
Linked to the reform should be the establishment of a new, dedicated, fully funded housing court.
This should make better use of mediation taking into account models in use abroad and meet in local venues such as schools and community centres, making the process less intimidating and easier for landlords and tenants to obtain the swift and accessible justice they need if the relationship is to work effectively.
The Coalition argues that such reforms must form part of a wider package of measures including welfare reforms to better support vulnerable tenants to sustain tenancies and smart taxation to encourage the development of the new homes for private rent the country needs.
Meanwhile in a separate strand to the campaign to save S21, the government’s plans have been accused of leaving landlords “virtually powerless” to tack chronic anti-social behaviour amongst tenants.
That’s the claim from the National Landlords Association which says S21 enshrines a landlord’s right to legally repossess property in an efficient and cost-effective way.
In a survey of more than 40,000 members, the NLA found that over the past 12 months some 14 per cent reported having tenants who engaged in anti-social activities ranging from drug abuse and prostitution to playing loud music.
Currently, landlords faced with disruptive or abusive tenants can issue a Section 21 notice that enables them to repossess their property, typically within four months, without having to put neighbours and those affected by ASB through the ordeal of giving evidence in court.
However, the government has unveiled plans to abolish this process, sparking fears among landlords that they will be unable to evict anti-social tenants.
The NLA says that if S21 went, landlords’ only alternative is to issue anti-social tenants with a Section 8 notice, which allows them to repossess their property so long as they provide a valid reason and are able to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy a court.
However, in practice this process all too often proves an unworkable option as anti-social behaviour can be difficult to prove without witness statements, which can be hard or impossible to get.
The section 8 process is costly, lengthy and puts all involved through months of unnecessary stress, it says.
Association chief executive Richard Lambert says: “Local communities often hold landlords responsible for the anti-social behaviour that takes place in their properties. But landlords cannot be blamed if they do not have effective tools to deal with the problem.
“In cases where the main issue is noise, alcohol or drugs, it can end up as your word against theirs, the reality is that neighbours and other tenants are sometimes just too afraid either to report cases of anti-social behaviour or testify in court.”