Sim Sekhon: Landlords need to speak up now

We are a month into a twelve-week consultation period on the proposed abolition of no-fault Section 21 evictions. The next few weeks will fly by and if landlords don’t voice their opinions now the legislative changes will sail through Parliament. Landlords will be left wondering why they no longer have control over their assets.

To recap, the situation is as follows. There is an opinion that some landlords misuse the provisions of Section 21. The suggestion is that the option is removed and that, in future, the only way to evict a tenant will be via a Section 8 process. Assured Shorthold Tenancies will disappear, and the only alternative will be an assured tenancy where both landlord and tenant are tied in to a fixed term.

Landlords would only be able to end the assured tenancy if there were grounds to do so under Section 8 of the Housing Act, but many landlords know from bitter, often costly experience that Section 8 doesn’t currently work well. That’s why the proposals include some suggested changes to Section 8 grounds.

If we cannot keep the rights that Section 21 affords us, as a minimum we need to ensure we have a Section 8 alternative that is effective and protects our legitimate interests. Several amendments are on the cards but note that none of these are set in stone and that the detail is still to be decided.

  1. Include a provision that the landlord can sell the property and extend the current ground for use should the landlord, a spouse, partner or family member wish to occupy the property.
  2. Protect landlords from tenants who keep accruing arrears and then paying them down just before the Section 8 hearing.
  3. Alter the current system so that the Section 8 notice can be issued if there are two months’ arrears and that one month’s arrears are enough grounds at the time of the hearing.
  4. Alterations to the grounds that cover domestic violence to strengthen the victim’s protection.
  5. Amend the grounds concerning eviction on grounds of anti-social behaviour.
  6. Strengthen the current grounds used where tenants are refusing the landlord necessary access to the property for repairs and safety inspections.

We need to act now, not on October 12th when the consultation period ends. We need to be rational, reasoned and to understand that genuine concern for tenants’ welfare is behind the proposed changes. What we cannot do is allow our rights as responsible, fair and decent landlords to be eroded until they are, to all extents, non-existent.

If you’ve got a great tenant in your property and have never had an issue, you may wonder what all the fuss is about, but if you’ve been unlucky, you’ll know that our somewhat limited legal protections should be defended. And that’s why I’m urging all landlords, large and small, to take an active interest in this campaign. Read up on the proposals. If you think they need changing, write to your MP explaining why. Add your voice to the campaigns of our professional bodies.

In this climate, if you don’t protect your interests, nobody else will.