What is Section 21 and why does it need to be scrapped?

Landlords can remove tenants without giving a reason. That’s unfair and it needs to change.

Most of England’s 11 million renters are on contracts with fixed terms of six months or a year; after this period has ended, landlords can evict their tenants with just two months’ notice – and without even giving them a reason. These ‘no fault evictions’ were introduced under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act. Before this, private tenants had much greater security and it was much harder for landlords to evict tenants who paid the rent on time and looked after the property. Generation Rent, the New Economics Foundation, ACORN and the London Renters Union are launching a campaign to abolish section 21.

Why is this important?

1) Homelessness

Evictions are the number 1 cause of homelessness. 80% of evictions are on no-fault grounds, and 63% of private renters who were forced to move in 2016 were evicted not due to any fault of their own but because the landlord wanted to sell or use the property.

2) Anxiety and quality of life

Even for those unlikely to be made homeless, section 21 can mean constant anxiety and insecurity – particularly for the 1.8 million renter households with children or the growing numbers of older people renting privately.

3) Local community

Insecurity harms quality of life for tenants, with private renters less likely than either owners or people in council housing to say they know lots of people in their local area, but more worried that they will have to move within the next year.

4) Weakened tenants’ rights

The threat of being evicted gives landlords huge power over tenants, who may decide not to complain about disrepair, big rent increases or other problems in case they are kicked out.

5) Private landlords are fuelling the housing crisis

Landlords’ ability to cash in their investment with minimal fuss makes buying a property seem like a low-risk investment for amateur landlords, who can evict and sell up when prices increase. This fuels the buy-to-let market, pushing up house prices - which forces would-be homeowners to rent.  

 

Shouldn’t landlords have the right to evict when they like?

No. Landlords take an income or have their mortgage paid from rents; in return, tenants should have the right to a secure home and a stable life, free from the anxiety of being evicted for no justifiable reason. Other parts of housing law deal with at-fault evictions. Removing Section 21 does not mean landlords won’t be able to take action when tenants fail to pay rent or damage property.

 

What is the alternative?

With house prices out of control, growing numbers of people have no option but to rent. To give them the chance of a decent home, it is clear that the power balance needs to shift away from private landlords.

In Europe alone, many countries have adopted housing laws that prioritise the health and wellbeing of tenants over the flexibility of private landlords. In Germany for example, tenancies are indefinite and properties are often bought and sold with tenants included. Across the border, the Scottish government has already acted to protect tenants by abolishing the Scottish equivalent of Section 21 last year.

There are a range of proposals on how to give tenants greater security, but we can do better than the current law that causes instability for millions. What is clear is that the current housing law in England and Wales prioritises the financial interests of private landlords rather than the health and happiness of renters and this is pushing up house prices, making ownership less attainable for swathes of the population. Section 21 is out-dated and incompatible with the current housing crisis. It needs to go.

 

Renter power is growing

Image 1: increase in renting, decline in ownership (source: Resolution Foundation)

Image 2: more 25-34s rent privately than own a home (Source: English Housing Survey)

There are growing numbers of renters – enough to outnumber owners in well over 100 parliamentary seats by the next election – and a wide range of groups now support getting rid of no-fault evictions. The law has changed in Scotland, and the UK government was recently forced to say it would ban lettings agents’ fees after a big public campaign.  

 

What can I do?

Sign our petition to call on the government to abolish no-fault evictions, and come to our end unfair evictions campaign launch.  

Join a local renters group like ACORN or the London Renters Union; they can give you advice and support, and help tenants challenge and resist evictions collectively. Find out who is active near you and register your interest here.

Showing 10 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • commented 2018-06-19 00:04:22 +0100 · Flag
    To say that “Evictions are the number 1 cause of homelessness” is muddle-headed. It is like saying that someone’s unemployment was caused by his dismissal. Eviction is not the cause of homelessness, it is merely the process through which it occurs. The cause of homelessness is whatever triggered the eviction – which is predominantly the behaviour of the tenant.

    Landlords like nothing better than to have long-term tenants as long as they pay the rent and treat the property and the neighbours.with respect.

    The use of the term “no fault” implies that there were no grounds for S 21 evictions, that the tenants had done nothing wrong and were therefore being victimised. But even theJoseph Rowntree Foundation’s report “Poverty, evictions and forced moves”acknowledged that S 21 is being used to evict tenants for rent arrears and for anti-social behaviour.

    The term “no fault” is deliberately misleading, to brainwash people into thinking that if S 21 is used the tenant cannot have been at fault.

    By the way, the same report showed that the rates of evictions from the PRS and the social sector were identical, at 4.7 tenants per thousand per year. That is less than 1 in 200, from either sector.

    “These ‘no fault evictions’ were introduced under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act. Before this, private tenants had much greater security and it was much harder for landlords to evict tenants who paid the rent on time and looked after the property. ”

    Yes indeed, they could have tenancies for life. This, coupled with Rent Control from 1915 is what made the PRS shrink from housing 76% of households in England in 1918 to just 9.1% in 1988. Section 21 was introduced to give landlords the right to recover their property. This remedy worked. so that the percentage rose to 10.1 in 1996.

    From 1996 to 2013, the total number of dwellings in England increased steadily from 20.3 million in 1996 to 23.3 million in 2013. Much of this was due to the notable growth in private rented housing which more than doubled in size from 2.0 million to 4.5 million over this period.

    Landlords did this by financing new builds, by rehabilitating run-down properties or by converting large residential or commercial buildings into flats or houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

    Generation Rent owes BTL a debt of gratitude for this. Instead they vilify landlords because they have been indoctrinated against BTL by a number of ignorant people, some of whom get articles published in the Guardian and the Times.

    The abolition of Section 21 would reduce the supply of rental accommodation and make homelessness worse. It would drive landlords out of the market and deter others from entering it, so that the stock of rental accommodation, already in short supply in some areas, would fall further while the population continues to increase. This would make rents rise even more, to the detriment of the tenants the writer claims to represent. It would also cause an increase in evictions as landlords leave.

    Generation Rent is campaigning to reduce supply and increase rents. Brilliant.
  • commented 2018-06-18 21:49:28 +0100 · Flag
    Generation Rent has joined Shelter in being a supremely anti-landlord organisation. I believe it is fuelled by hatred of private landlords and is highly destructive. If it succeeds in doing all it can to tie landlords’ hands, make it impossible to regain possession of their property, to support Government tax levies which are leading to higher rents and to landlords leaving the market – these will all lead to a worse and smaller private rented sector. More rented housing is needed, not less, but these ignorant, ideologically-driven organisations are proposing policies which will only damage tenants’ lives. They don’t seem to care as long as they hurt landlords.
  • commented 2018-06-18 21:36:22 +0100 · Flag
    Point 5 a Low risk investment, do you live on planet earth. There is so much red tape and tax it is anything but a low risk investment. Not to mention the thousands of pounds spent on repairs.

    Well lets see they wish to make it virtually impossible to get a tenant out on anti social behaviour .
    Anybody tenant or neighbour who has put up with a rogue tenant (yes they certainly exist in the real world)
    what about their rights to a peaceful live.
    They will have years of problems before a landlord will get the property back.

    What about the wasted police time and ambulances who visit at least twice a week due to being called out by neighbours .

    By the time you have evicted a rogue tenant with a S21 there will generally be 4000 worth of damage.

    The neighbours will think what a bad landlord keeping that tenant , well lets shout it loud and clear that the likes of shelter and G. Rent as been responsible for this.

    In your world you dont accept that anything can be a tenants thought.

    Perhaps do some research into how many times police get called out for anti social behaviour of tenants . Or how many deposits are paid out to landlords from the council for damages . Or the costs to landlords for rent arrears and propertu damage.

    Before you sign this petition look behind the glossed up headline.
  • commented 2018-06-18 21:16:53 +0100 · Flag
    So if you’re a tenant then just think for a moment. Sounds good doesn’t it – the removal of S21? Because of course landlords just evict people for no good reason. Only they don’t do they? So let me tell you about the last S21 I used which must be over 2 years ago now. Imagine you’re a tenant in a good quality HMO. You’re a hard working sort and you like where you live. It’s handy for work and not a bad area. Then things start to go wrong. One of your housemates who you’ve got on with fairly well, starts drinking more and more heavily. He’s a big bloke and you don’t want to upset him. But things just get worse. Not only has he now lost his job and drinks most of the day, but he has his friends round too and they like to party through the night. They start bringing hard drugs into the house and the atmosphere has got bad. They keep you awake most of the night and it’s affecting your work. No chance of a promotion now. You decide you have to talk to him and you try to pick a good moment. Unfortunately it’s never a good moment with this guy and he hits you. Then he hits you again and again. He’s drunk and you can defend yourself OK but this has gone way too far. So…. my question to you is how quickly would you like this guy gone? Fast or slow? It’s your choice. S21 isn’t fast but it’s a LOT quicker than S8. Which would you choose?
  • commented 2018-06-18 20:36:00 +0100 · Flag
    So much of the usual half-wit nonsense from GR. Only 7% of tenancies ended by landlords. Around half of this from S21. So 3.5% of all private tenancies ended this way. Social evict far more (64% of court hearings for eviction in fact), but I notice no one’s complaining about that!

    The other interesting aspect is that a landlord may use S21 to quietly evict for large rent arrears, or property damage, and be willing to let the tenant go scott-free. The idiots at GR are now demanding court hearings, CCJs, and presumably considerable additional stress to the tenant unnecessarily! This is great news in some ways. I often let tenants off large arrears (thousands), but without S21 I shall have to ENSURE they get a CCJ and thus damage their ability to ever get either another rental, or a mortgage. Well done GR!
  • commented 2018-06-18 20:21:43 +0100 · Flag
    Why would a landlord evict a good tenant, unless selling up? Eviction is costly to a Landlord with void costs, refurb costs, new tenant advertising/ vetting costs and legal costs, but, although not necessarily the quickest, it gives certainty to all involved, which why it is used so often. So abolishing s.21 will not reduced evictions as other grounds will have to be used instead, but as these will increase costs then you’ll find some landlords exiting the market or increasing rents to cover the extra costs. Is this what Generation Rent want fewer available properties and higher rents for the remaining properties?

    Section 21 is only used when a tenant is in arrears, is abusing the property, or is antisocial, other grounds for evictions are full of loopholes which bad tenants exploit to put off eviction usually at the Landlords expense. Landlords do not evict good tenants!
  • commented 2018-05-25 10:39:07 +0100
    As a professional landlord, I support the majority of this (shock! horror!). I only ever evict a tenant if they are not paying or cause damage to the property.

    Here is the major problem – A section 8 “tenant’s fault” eviction can take far too long as Neil Robb portrays – Sometimes YEARS. The only current recourse is to issue a Section 21 “no fault eviction”, because it’s quicker.

    Scrapping Section 21 without improving Section 8 will lead to more bad non-paying tenants, professional landlord businesses going out of business, a rise in unscrupulous landlords taking up the market – Ultimately reducing the amount of quality properties and landlords available to tenants.

    So, I agree, but Section 8 needs urgent reform at the same time, to protect the good tenants.
  • commented 2018-05-22 20:46:44 +0100
    I have never issued a section21 and hope I never do. However I have had tenants who never pay the December rent or a summer rent. Then have to be chased. Which can take years to catch up. A holiday isn’t a right it’s a luxury. Be a good tenant and the landlord will want you to stay.
  • commented 2018-05-22 18:07:49 +0100
    Really how misinformed this post is . Landlords are forced to use S21 as when they use Sec 8 for non payment or anti social behaviour it is discretionary and the judge may and often allows tenant time to stay on.
    If tenants where held to account for not paying rent and evicted quicker then less would try not paying giving them security.
    Some tenants play the game and it can take up to a year or more to evict. Yet if you stayed in a hotel and did not pay it would be classed as fraud. You cant take 8 months shopping from Tesco’s and not pay .
    Tenants steal items from property yet on many occasions police will try and do little and say it is a civil matter. No it is not it is theft.
    To deliberately damage a property is vandalism and criminal damage yet again police quite often reluctant to take action.
    These are some of the reasons a landlord use section 21 to ensure they can get a bad tenant out.
    Rarely do I meet a landlord who wants to evict a good tenant that looks after the property and pays rent. Yes it happens but not 63% that is roughly 1.2 million families/ homes evicted in 2016 where did that figure come from.
    What you are about to see is a lot of landlords no longer willing to rent homes out as it is not worth it very few landlords own more than 5 properties. most own one or two normally the second is inherited.
    The government introduced a policy call Section 24 this means landlords will no longer be taxed on turn over but profit. The money they pay the bank will be seen as profit.
    Imagine if all businesses were taxed on turn over not profit they would go bust. This is going to result in landlords selling up or raising rents to cover extra tax. If they don’t they will go bust.
    IN addition Universal credit is so unjust the way it treats claimant’s is causing many landlords not to risk renting to UC benefit claimant’s because there payments can be stopped and no warning giving and UC wont speak to landlords without a fight even when tenant gives permission..
  • commented 2018-05-22 15:27:42 +0100
    I totally agree section 21 is barbaric it is the root of all our problems with Renting and is a major cause of homelessness !