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No-fault eviction ban will hurt tenants, landlords say

Eviction notice Image copyright Inpho

A government plan to ban no-fault evictions in England will backfire, landlords say, as lower-income tenants will find it harder to rent homes.

Proposals to scrap section 21 notices would mean landlords could no longer evict tenants without a reason after their fixed-term tenancy period ended.

The plan aims to give tenants security and halt "revenge evictions" when tenants are thrown out for complaining.

But a landlords' trade group says its members will be more choosy over lets.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said its survey of 6,400 landlords suggested that 84% of its members would be more selective, picking tenants on higher incomes and leaving those earning less to fight over fewer properties.

Landlords could even decide to let fewer homes to tenants with pets, as they would be considered as carrying a higher risk of causing damage.

Housing charity Shelter dismissed the fears, arguing that there had been no such consequences in Scotland since it banned section 21.

There are two options for a landlord to ensure tenants leave a property - section 21 when they must give two months' notice but no specific reason at the end of a tenancy, or section eight when they take cases of rent arrears and anti-social behaviour to court.

The RLA said the section eight process was lengthy, costly and needed reform before any decision was taken to scrap section 21.

'I want to let a local house to a local person'

Una Walsh, based in Leeds, has 20 properties and had served three section 21 notices in the last five years.

All were for rent arrears, and the notices were served after she received professional and legal advice. She said they were used as a "desperate last resort".

Image copyright Una Walsh
Image caption Una Walsh said she would have to rent only to professionals

Her properties are mostly three-bedroom family homes and she said the evictions allowed her to re-let the properties swiftly to families who needed them.

"My ethos was local houses for a local person. If they grow up in the neighbourhood, they are settled here," the 57-year-old said.

However, she feared that slow evictions, during which tenants failed to pay the rent, would mean she would only be able to let to households with two wage earners after 30 years of operating in a different way.

The RLA claimed that vulnerable tenants would be most at risk from the tougher selection criteria that landlords would be forced to adopt.

The survey suggested that 45% of RLA members would consider selling some of their properties as a result of any section 21 ban, although a survey of intentions does not always happen in reality.

Section 21 notices are already banned in Scotland, but the RLA said the Scottish government put far more preparation in place, whereas the authorities in England were "twisting in the wind" on policy.

It called for wholesale changes to the eviction system, including the introduction of a dedicated housing court.

David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said: "While 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."

Some tenants say the system is actually being abused by landlords who kick out tenants following complaints, so-called revenge evictions.

Image copyright Alicia Powell
Image caption Alicia and her boyfriend complained about water damage in their home

Earlier this year, 24-year-old Alicia Powell told the BBC how she was renting a flat in north London with her boyfriend when she noticed a wet patch on the ceiling.

The couple complained to their property manager but nothing was done so they said they were going to report it to their local council.

Shortly afterwards, they were served with a section 21 notice.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "The government's plan to scrap no-fault evictions is vital to tackle the turmoil experienced by people up and down the country, especially children and the elderly who are worst affected by sudden evictions.

"Being turfed out of your home for no reason, with no evidence, and with just eight weeks of warning can have devastating consequences. This practice must be consigned to the history books."

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