Changes to possession rules could result in landlords being more selective

Plans to change the way landlords in the private rented sector can repossess properties will result in landlords and agents being more selective about tenants selection, it is suggested by a new survey.

According to one of the largest ever non-government surveys of landlords and agents, some 84% said that plans to scrap Section 21, ‘no explanation’ repossessions would make them more likely to reject tenants they think are a risk or those with pets.

The Residential Landlords Association, which conducted the survey, has warned that this means that landlords would be less likely to rent to those considered to be of higher risk of rent arrears or causing damage to a property, such as tenants with pets.

Landlords would be concerned that if problems emerged they would not be able to swiftly regain possession, according to the RLA. ‘If Section 21 were to go I would only rent to professionals because I don’t want to be left in a situation where a tenant is in my property who cannot afford to pay the rent,’ one landlord told the survey.

The research also refutes the argument that many Section 21 notices are used for no reason.
Of those landlords who had used this route to repossess properties 84% had used it because of tenant rent arrears, 56% had used it because of damage to a property and 51% had used it because of anti-social behaviour.

Indeed, rather than landlords seeking to evict tenants by this route 26% said that they had served a Section 21 notice at the tenants request to enable them to seek social housing to avoid them being classed as intentionally homeless.

At present, landlords can repossess properties using two routes. One, known as Section 21, enables a landlord to regain possession at the end of a tenancy and requires two months’ notice to be given but without providing a reason. Under the other avenue, known as Section 8, landlord can repossess a property under a number of set grounds including rent arrears and anti-social behaviour.

The problem facing landlords is that the Section 8 process can take a long time during which a problem tenant may not be paying rent or could potentially be causing a nuisance to other tenants or neighbours.

Many report dissatisfaction with the courts, citing numerous delays and problems with regaining possession from tenants for anti-social behaviour or rent arrears. It currently takes an average of over five months from a landlord applying to court for a property to be returned to them.

The Government plans to consult on proposals to scrap Section 21 repossessions in favour of an as of yet undefined system.

‘Whilst no landlords should ever abuse the system, it is only right and fair that they can repossess properties swiftly and with certainty in legitimate circumstances. At present, only Section 21 provides this certainty,’ said David Smith, RLA policy director.

‘If the Government is to get rid of it, landlords should have the same level of confidence and certainty about repossessing properties in cases such as rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell the property,’ he explained.

‘Without such confidence landlords will simply leave the market, making it more difficult for the growing number of people looking for a home to rent. Secure tenancies will mean nothing without the homes to rent being there in the first place,’ he added.

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