Reforming Private Renting – Making it fairer for all is within our grasp 

For those of you who follow my occasional posts this probably won’t be news, but for everyone else, yea, I’ve made a motion.

On Tuesday, at 11:10 I will be in the auditorium, moving a motion with a simple call, for our party to back the removal of Section 21 of the Housing Act (1988). For a small piece of legislation S21 (as we like to call it…) has a big impact. It’s the cause of many evictions, including so called ‘revenge eviction’, where landlords quite legally turf out tenants that they no-longer want with only two months’ notice… and often because those tenants have complained about something, such as faulty electrics or leaking walls or rooves.

S21 makes many private renters second class citizens, forced to endure circumstances that compromise their health or risk their safety, because they are poor or low waged or can’t get a foot on the ‘property ladder’. It threatens young and old, single folks and families, and as the size of the private renting population grows, it’s reaching into more of our communities. 

Even Theresa May recognised its invidiousness and promised to scrap it. But in typical Tory style, her passion for improving our lot only ran as far a running a consultation on the matter (I urge you to respond to it –  which our new overlord is less than likely to honour. And certainly not unless progressive parties, of which we are the epitome, hold his feet to the fire. Tim Farron has written to the new Housing Secretary to do just that. 

And that’s why I’ve brought forward the motion (F37: Reforming Housing Legislation: Scrapping Section 21 ‘No Fault Evictions’). I’m delighted to count our London Mayoral candidate, Siobhan Benita, and one of our new MEPs, Luisa Porrit amongst its supporters, and I’ve had lots of words of supports. But it is a motion, and it will be debated, and voted on. So, if you’re at conference on Tuesday morning, and want to show the growing numbers of private renters the Liberal Democrats stand with them, then come and join me in the conference hall. 

Scrapping S21 won’t fix our country’s broken homes infrastructure (I refuse to call it a ‘housing market’, because it’s not for many of us, and shouldn’t be one anyway), but it will be a great start towards ensuring that private renters can have homes as safe and secure as those who are fortune to own theirs.


* Mark Platt is a Lib Dem of twenty years plus and has served the party at local, regional and national level, most recently as a member of FPC. He is also a private renter in London, the epicentre of the private rental housing crisis.

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  • Lord that suggestion would up set the ” buy to leters” who comproise a not insubstantial percentage of the Tory party, no wonder they kicked it into the longest of the long grass ( it’s practically a jungle in there, not much ever gets out again). We need a policy that provides everyone in the UK with affordable housing ( both rental and owned), this will upset many of those who make a killing out of renting but their upset is a necessity ( hard decsions often have a cost). Before someone says but it is my pension, well adequate pensions also need to be sorted and not by screwing the young and poor.

  • Time to encourage and support local authorities to build council houses again.

  • David Raw 15th Sep ’19 – 2:34pm……………..Time to encourage and support local authorities to build council houses again…

    I agree but WITHOUT the ‘right to buy’ which has been a disastrous Thatcher legacy!

  • William Fowler 15th Sep '19 - 3:53pm

    I am old enough to recall when renting in London involved taking on a holiday let (max six months) as the landlord was frightened of tenants becoming sitting tenants and not being able to raise the rent, etc. In the current system, the tenants can give a month’s notice and the landlord two months notice to quit, which does not seem that unreasonable… good tenants who don’t wreck the property and pay their rent on time tend to be allowed to stay for a long time whereas the two month rule is usually applied to people who cause problems (not always, agreed). Changing the system, or Labour’s idea of allowing tenants to buy the property at a large discount, will result in BTL disappearing from the market and tenants being in real trouble.

    Unfortunately, one of the underlying causes of Brexit was immigration squeezing the low end rental market and the LibDems do need some serious proposals to expand the housing market at the lower end to balance staying in the EU but I don’t think making it impossible for BTL landlords do business is the answer. The cost of new houses is approximately split fifty percent for land price and fifty percent for build costs which suggests the key is using govn or council or what remains of our nationalized co’s land.

  • Mike Norman 15th Sep '19 - 4:47pm

    I’m afraid I can’t make it to conference to vote or debate on it, but as a tenant-lawyer I wholeheartedly would support this motion. There are inherent imbalances between landlords and tenants and continuing to allow section 21 is a significant one. It’s likely to be necessary if passed to reconsider the other grounds in schedule 2 Housing Act 1988 yes, and yes it might be that other ‘ground-based’ possession grounds need tweaking in terms of timescales, in order to retain a balance. Nevertheless, in short, passing this motion would go a long way to showing our commitment to respecting security of tenure for a significant part of the population who have lacked it since 1989.

  • Lewis Buchan 15th Sep '19 - 8:38pm

    Interesting article about the situation in England. I would advise you all to learn about the reforms enacted in Scotland that have improved matters greatly. It was done by the SNP but that should not mean that good ideas are rejected

  • As a Housing Association tenant not subject to S21 I fully support this. It may well be that post S21 the grounds bssed eviction clauses need tweaking but that’s no excuse not to act. As someone who has had to repeatedly complain about appalling service I would never have done so if S21 applied the RSL tenants. It’s just too risky when a landord hss the power of no fault eviction. If liberalism is anything it’s a theory of power and its imbalances. S21 is one we should correct.

  • Be careful what you wish for. A substantial majority of s21 claims are for rent arrears or damage to the property or anti-social behaviour. Landlords use it because s21 is quicker than the alternatives. In many cases they write off rent arrears.
    Be prepared for unintended consequences including:
    Landlords withdrawing from the market, reducing supply and rents increasing.
    Families who would like to rent out temporarily whilst working abroad not being willing to risk not regaining possession.
    Landlords being choosier about which tenants to accept meaning the poor and vulnerable will be disadvantaged
    More tenants getting CCJs for debt meaning Councils will treat them as intentionally homeless and not re-house them. Private landlords and Housing Associations won’t want them either.
    Landlords being almost powerless to evict the anti-social tenant who pays his rent because of the difficulty gathering evidence and the intimidated neighbours being afraid to give evidence.
    There are particular problems with Houses in Multiple Occupation where behaviour may be far less than anti-social behaviour but intolerable to other occupiers. for instance “borrowing” milk without asking and not replacing it, never doing washing up or doing it so badly it has to be re-done before cutlery and crockery can be used. Being noisy late at night. Being “creepy” – women in shared houses may not want to live with an over-familiar man in the house. Coming in drunk and generally “being obnoxious”.
    I could go on but my point, pace Mike Norman, is that if you abolish s21you may deal with one problem: good tenants being evicted for a bad reason or no reason, and create a plethora of other problems.
    Most landlords want tenants for the long-term. We don’t go in to business to evict tenants and stop receiving rent! There are already laws against revenge evictions but Councils don’t have the resources to enforce them.
    I am sorry to hear that tenants are afraid to raise maintenance issues. Having spent £6000 replacing rotten windows that might have been saved if the tenant had piped up earlier, I would rather be told of problems before they become serious.
    That said the tax changes are hurting landlords leaving many with little or no “profit” out of which to pay for repairs and improvements.

  • Peter Hirst 21st Sep '19 - 1:23pm

    From the debate, it was obvious that the balance between landlord and tenant is complicated and changes can have disastrous results. We need a fair, regulated and diverse rental sector. The easiest way is to have a rental ombudsman that both parties can appeal to who can deliver fair and rapid judgements based on the individual circumstances.

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