Last night there was a BBC Panorama documentary which looked into the issues surrounding Section 21 evictions, also known as ‘no-fault’ evictions. The programme went on to argue that no-fault evictions are not fit for purpose and that the situation needs to change.
The documentary is called Evicted for No Reason and was presented by Richard Bilton. During the documentary, Bilton recognises the increasingly vital role played by landlords in the UK’s housing market. We often refer to landlords as the backbone of the UK’s housing market, as they provide flexible and affordable housing, as well as capacity.
However, when referring to landlords, Bilton went on to say: “They say we need ‘no-fault’ evictions but for millions of tenants, that means no security and no place they can really call home.”
A number of different situations were reviewed in the documentary, including examining the story of three different tenants facing eviction and one landlord who wanted to evict a tenant.
One of the featured families was served a Section 21 eviction notice following discussions with the landlord who wanted to put the rent up by £400 a month. Unfortunately, the tenants couldn’t afford that kind of increase and the landlord had opted to remove them from the property.
Whilst the family was evicted they eventually found a new rental property, but there was considerable upheaval, and their children were forced to move to a new school. In addition, the tenant Laura said she had lost her job due to having to deal with the eviction.
The landlord was also particularly unhelpful in the situation and had stopped answering their calls. This resulted in the family arriving at the new rental property with virtually no furniture.
Another tenant - who had lived in a property for four years - was served with a Section 21 notice following her repeated requests for the landlord to repair a leaking shower. The landlord argued that the repairs had been made and the reason for serving the Section 21 notice was because the tenant refused to sign a new lease and because the landlord had lost patience with the tenant’s trivial complaints.
The final tenants' story involved a council worker ending up in a converted council office block because she had nowhere else to go.
Time and time again we speak with good landlords who are committed to helping their tenants and their families. It’s a shame some of those landlords couldn’t be featured in the programme to provide some balance. The landlord they did feature went some way to give balance, however, it’s likely the programme’s researchers could have found a landlord evicting tenants with even more serious implications to the landlord.
As it stands, the landlord followed was trying to evict a tenant who had made late rent payments, and who had asked to pay in instalments, and who had also installed satellite TV and changed the utility meters without permission.
Perhaps tellingly, this tenant had previously been evicted from two other properties but asked the court to delay the eviction in order to give the tenant time to find a new property, as he and his daughter had nowhere else to go.
The landlord detailed having lost £1,000 on the case and expected to lose more before the tenant was finally evicted. Of the process, the landlord said it had been “worrying, infuriating and extremely stressful”.
The landlord spoke passionately about the need for more rights for landlords to provide a counter-balance against the rights of the tenant, arguing that her property had been altered unreasonably and without her permission. Clearly, late payment of rents can be a problem for any landlord’s cash flow.
In addition to speaking to tenants and landlords, Bilton also spoke to landlord advocate Paul Shamplina from Landlord Action. Shamplina said: “You have got to realise that 98% of tenancies go through swimmingly. Most landlords will never have to serve a notice and never have to evict a tenant in their lifetime of being a landlord. But when it happens it can be distressing.”
Landlord Action’s senior solicitor Emma Philips was also interviewed describing Section 21 as “crucial”. She went on to say: “A Section 21 notice is very important because it means that landlords and tenants can draw a tenancy to an end and nobody is at fault and everybody knows where they stand.
“I think the rules and regulations currently are mostly in favour of the tenant.”
Bilton then went to explore the changes to the private residential sector in Scotland, arguing that these changes had been largely for the good. We believe that many of the changes made in Scotland over the last few months will be rolled out in the rest of the UK. As this is a trend with previous changes. That means renters will likely get tenancies “for life” provided they stick to certain conditions.
Bilton also met with a group of Scottish landlords who argued that the changes had also benefited them as well. They told him that in certain conditions, such as non-payment of rent, it is now easier to remove a tenant, without the time and expense associated with going to court.
As one landlord said, the changes force landlords to “become more professional.” This has to be a good thing. We encourage regulation of the private rental sector, however it’s essential that the consequences of changes for landlords, who often do this as a secondary income, is fully understood and accommodated.
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