Renters’ Reform Bill announced
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Marc Bloomfield
LAG has welcomed government plans to put an end to s21 notices via the Renters’ Reform Bill, which was announced in the Queen’s speech on 19 December 2019, but it warns the government not to cave in to pressure from the landlords’ lobby to rush into creating a specialist housing court.
In the general election campaign, Boris Johnson highlighted the proposed policy change on repossessions, along with other measures to appeal to renters, including a new system of transferable deposits. In the Queen’s speech, the government confirmed that ‘[n]ew measures will be brought forward to protect tenants’ (the Renters’ Reform Bill was announced on page 46 of the background briefing notes that accompanied the speech).
The abolition of Housing Act 1988 s21 (or no-fault evictions, as the provisions are often referred to), was originally floated by the previous prime minister, Theresa May, in April 2019.1See ‘Government announces end to unfair evictions’, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government press release, 15 April 2019. The proposal was supported by many housing lawyers but opposed by landlords (see May 2019 Legal Action 4).
The National Landlords Association (NLA) described the current proposals as ‘ruinous and likely to lead to an exodus of responsible landlords from the private rented sector’ (‘Government’s housing plans are a crisis waiting to happen’, NLA, 19 December 2019). It believes that the change, ‘without court reform’ to enable quicker possession, will ‘risk leaving tenants worse off’.
The government has committed to including provisions in the bill to give ‘landlords more rights to gain possession of their property’ and to improve the court process for landlords ‘to make it quicker and easier’ to regain possession of their property (see page 46 of the briefing notes).
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) published research earlier this month, which it claims shows that the time it takes for repossessions for ‘legitimate reasons’ has increased to 30 weeks in London courts (James Wood, ‘The wait of justice: the slow pace of the courts in Greater London’, RLA blog post, 15 January 2020). The RLA is calling on the government to establish a specialist housing court ‘in order to improve and speed up access to justice for landlords and tenants’ (Victoria Barker, ‘London courts need urgent reform warn landlords’, RLA press release, 15 January 2020).
Carol Storer, interim director of LAG, said that the ‘ending of the injustice of no-fault evictions is a positive move for tenants’. She expressed concerns, though, on the pressure from the landlords’ lobby to establish a new court for housing cases. ‘As part of the government’s austerity measures, we have seen the closure of many county courts across the country. Against this background, LAG would question if the government would be willing to find the necessary cash to properly fund any new system.’
JUSTICE, the human rights and law reform charity, is due to publish its report on resolving housing disputes next month.
 
1     See ‘Government announces end to unfair evictions’, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government press release, 15 April 2019. »

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