The impact the repeal of section 21 notices will have on the housing sector

By Alex Nagle, Head of Operations

I took a sharp intake of breath when Theresa May announced the abolishment of section 21 notices by October 2019. The notice, which allows for mandatory repossession of a rented property for both private and social landlords, has protected landlords as well as tenants since 1988. I was shocked when this plan was revealed as I believe it will have a catastrophic impact on the social housing sector, and I hope the new Prime Minister will reconsider this move carefully.

Section 21’s have been around for so long it’s hard to imagine a time without them.  I think it’s fair to say they’ve given social landlords the courage to offer housing to challenging customers in the knowledge that if there’s a necessity to bring the tenancy to an end quickly, without a long drawn out legal case, there’s remedy to do so.  For example, supporting our local authority partners to meet their homeless obligations by providing short term temporary housing. By creating longer fixed term assured tenancies this will be harder to offer and will tie up temporary homes for too long creating a blockage.

We’re all aware that offering short term insecure tenancies affects wellbeing, which is making us all rethink the use of fixed term tenancies. But, is there a way to offer greater protection to private renters but retain the flexibility within the social sector?

Recently the Heads of Housing South Forum debated what the impact could be if the revoke of the notice goes ahead.  It’s arguable that there will probably be minimal impact on fixed term and probationary tenancies, as not many are brought to an end early. The sense of feeling amongst my peers is that we all work for organisations who have a strong social purpose and we were all confident that we only bring tenancies to an end when it’s necessary -– so why impose this across the board?  And whilst we don’t want social tenants to have a reduced level of security compared to those in the private sector, RPs can be trusted not to use ‘No Fault’ evictions unless they are required to do so.

The impact on the supply of private rented accommodation is also a concern. Private landlords have been faced with lots of change in recent months with the Homes Act 2018, no fees and capping on deposits.  This repeal will likely reduce supply and put more strain on the already overburdened housing market. There’s no question that there are some ruthless private landlords out there but introducing blanket legislation could make private letting no longer desirable.

I hope that with the new Prime Minister and Housing Minister in place, the blanket revoke will be reconsidered. Colleagues at the National Housing Federation are working hard to gather thoughts from across the sectors to enable a debate to be had, so it’s important that we all have our say and protect the housing sector. 

Section 21’s have been around for so long it’s hard to imagine a time without them