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Don’t just scrap Section 21 - reform the court system too

A lettings industry trade body has written to the government urging fundamental reform of the court system to prevent it grinding to a standstill if Section 21 eviction powers are scrapped.

In the Renters Reform Bill, likely to resume progress through Parliament next month, the government has pledged to abolish Section 21 possession notices while on the other hand looking at extended grounds-based approaches for possession via a Section 8 notice. 

There is a fear that those measures, alone, will lead to delays at Propertymark chief executive Nathan Emerson has written to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk to vent his concern. 


Emerson writes: “As you will know, a third of all possession cases are Section 21 notices which are ‘accelerated’ claims that bypass the courts system. Therefore, the removal of Section 21 will mean more cases going through the courts. 

“Consequently, there is concern that without increasing capacity in the court system, once the changes come into force, letting agent agents and their landlords will not know how long they will be expected to wait for a hearing and ultimately possession of their property. 

“To improve access to justice for both landlords, letting agents and tenants, it is imperative that the removal of Section 21 takes place alongside essential court reform. While court procedures are a last resort, the reforms set out in the Bill will mean that where landlords want their property back, they will now have to go to court, but without improving capacity in the court system these proceedings will be lengthy and expensive. 

“Currently, our members are unclear as to what progress the UK Government have made to improve capacity in the court system and digitise the process.”

Emerson spells out that there should be a better dispute resolution service for housing and property disputes because the ability for landlords to access a swift, efficient, and cost-effective justice system is a key component of a successful lettings industry. 

And he continues: “While embedding alternative and more preventative approaches to dispute resolution can potentially help more tenants stay in their homes and continue rent payments to more landlords, there will inevitably be situations where recovering possession of a property via the court system is the only viable option. However, the current system does not currently provide a reliable route to justice for landlords in these circumstances.”

The chief executive states that while most tenancies are actually ended by the tenant, landlords need to be confident that a property can be recovered quickly if the tenant has caused damage, stopped paying rent or if the landlord’s circumstances change. 

“Through adequately resourcing and reforming the existing courts system this will speed up the system, increase expertise in the decision-making process and ensure greater consistency with reduced costs” he adds.

Emerson spells out that agents and landlords alike will need more than the six months notice of change suggested in the Renters Reform Bill. Instead, he calls for a pilot scheme followed by a period of assessment.

“Additionally, if changes are introduced, after a pilot scheme, the sector must be given at least a minimum of 12 months before the legislation comes into force. During this time, landlords and letting agents will be able to familiarise themselves with the changes and the UK Government will be given sufficient time in order to conduct a full communications campaign to inform those working and living in the private rented sector.”

You can see the full letter here

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    Hear hear on all of that

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    Oh landlords are scared aren't they.

    Kristjan Byfield

    Tenants should be too- a drawn-out eviction which ends in victory for the landlord simply means that the tenant will have accrued further arrears, costs and liabilities making their circumstances even direr. Prompt legal decision benefit everyone- delays help no one.


    All decent landlords are already scared as it is because PRS has become a parasite’s paradise. If a tenant wants to cheat the government lets him. Why? Because it doesn’t want to house him as he’s too much trouble! So let his landlord suffer!

  • Kristjan Byfield

    The UK legal system is in chaos- read The Secret Barrister for some scary insights. 'Reforming' the courts, whilst needed, certainly won't happen easily and won't be started in such a late-term of power. Whilst Natahan is absolutely right, what is critical right now is that the phrasing around S8 for ASB & arrears is effectively updated to facilitate faster decisions. There is currently no allowance for a landlord to terminate a tenancy to undertake refurbishment works- this should absolutely be accommodated (bearing in mind the proposed application of a DHS) although this would need to be structured in a way that ensured a decent scope of works are undertaken prior to any re-letting.

  • Matthew Payne

    Not sure why this is news, many of us have been making this precise point for 2/3 years, good to see Propertymark catching up.

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    Every landlord should just sell up and leave no available lets. Then let the government try letting property! Chaos!

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    I do a lot of evictions through the courts and it’s not a court hearing that causes the biggest delay, but the wait for county court bailiffs. Why there should be a shortage of County Court bailiffs, I do not know as they charge £130 for the service and the last time I spoke to a bailiff he was doing 10 evictions a day.

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    If other councils followed Sandwell MBCs lead, and my experience is repeated the need for most court hearings could be avoided. A few months ago, Sandwell introduced what is called their call before you serve service CB4YS . What the council do is, encourage landlords to use the council as mediators before they go to court to Evict a Tenant. The first six tenants who I was going to Evict and referred to Sandwell resulted in me, not having to evict any one of them.

    I recently spoke to a housing officer who moved from the south of England, and he said that his old council introduced a similar service, and the number of tenants applying as homeless dropped by 80%. Just having a third-party mediator has such dramatic effect. It could also be that the council mediator tells the tenants that if they do not pay the rent and are evicted, they will be treated as intentionally homeless and refused to be rehoused by the council!


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