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The Renters (Reform) Bill, which was introduced by the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove on 17 May 2023, finally had its second reading in the House of Commons on 23 October 2023.  

However, the headline is that the abolition of section 21 is not to proceed until reforms to the Court process are in place.  This will come as a relief to many landlords. 

The Government has responded to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee report on the Renters (Reform) Bill and stated it will not commence the abolition of section 21 until ''stronger possession grounds'' and reforms to the court system are in place.  The report acknowledges that, as well as protecting the needs of tenants, there is a need to, "actively [support] the many good landlords who provide these homes. Good landlords deserve good tenants, and should feel confident that their investment is safe, know that they can get their property back when they need to".

The proposed reforms to the Court system include:

  • digitising more of the court process to make it simpler and easier for landlords to use;
  • exploring the prioritisation of certain cases, including antisocial behaviour;
  • improving bailiff recruitment and retention and reducing administrative tasks so bailiffs can prioritise possession enforcement; and
  • providing early legal advice and better signposting for tenants, including to help them find a housing solution that meets their needs.

There is also a commitment to introduce a new ground for possession to facilitate the student market where landlords must be able to guarantee possession each year for a new set of tenants.  This will now include the private sector landlords which make up a large proportion of this market, as well as the purpose-built student accommodation which the Government had previously committed to protect. 

This further delay to the abolition of section 21 will no doubt cause increased frustration to renters as the Bill seeks to provide greater protection and security, however, will be welcomed relief to many Landlords.

Under current legislation landlords can, under Section 21 of The Housing Act 1988, issue a two months' notice to regain possession of a property and evict without reason, enabling landlords to regain possession of their property quickly and efficiently, at least in cases without the need for court involvement.   In cases where tenants do not leave voluntarily, it is necessary to seek a possession order. Currently this process can take around 12 months to complete, even in cases where the tenant is paying no rent.  In particular, the delay from possession order to eviction can be as long as 5 to 6 months for cases in the London Courts.  So, clearly reform and investment in the Court system is long overdue.

Such reforms could take years to implement, and this raises the question whether this Bill will in fact be passed under this Government. What we do know is that no-fault evictions have increased exponentially following the introduction of this Bill (as recently reported on in our Housing Litigation Update) and will continue to be used for the foreseeable future.