Now Section 21 is en-route to the scrapheap, we need a Section 8 that works

Yesterday the Government sounded the death knell for the no-fault Section 21 eviction. Amidst the celebrating voices of tenants, local authorities and housing campaigners, the genuine concerns of landlords aren’t heard, but we should be used to that by now.

This change has been on the cards for some time and may be implemented as early as October. In the few remaining months between now and then, landlords in England and Wales need to work to ensure that the Section 8 eviction process is effective.

Although the Government have said that the reforms will offer speedy redress to landlords who want to get their property back for legitimate reasons, we mustn’t sleepwalk into a nightmare. With no-fault no longer a sufficient reason to evict a tenant, If we want to get our properties back, we’ll have to demonstrate that we have a ‘concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law.’ And it’s important to realise that unlike Section 21, tenants can challenge a Section 8 eviction notice in court. It’s easy to see that proceedings could start to drag on and that solicitors could be more than happy to run up substantial fees while the judiciary deliberates.

The slow nature of the judicial process raises another question. Although Section 21 is currently relatively straightforward, regaining possession can still take a few months. It’s likely that there will have to be a transition period where existing Section 21 notices work through the system before the new regime takes over.

Longer term there will be both pros and cons for the industry. Although landlords will protest, Scottish landlords are already living without no-fault evictions. The message from north of the border is that the responsible landlord is coping just fine with the change. What’s more, many claim the change is improving standards in the sector with repairs being carried out rather than tenants being exchanged for ones who are more tolerant of issues.

Of course, letting to the right tenant in the first place is more important without the no-fault option. If you take away just one message from the impending change, it’s that thorough tenant referencing will be critical.

This story has hit the mainstream headlines and will receive wide public support. There’s no doubt that some tenants will enjoy better protection from unscrupulous landlords, but there can also be little doubt that the reforms will deter some people from becoming private landlords in the first place and may drive others to sell up.