After a lot of concern that the Bill was going to be lost, the Government announced that the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill will take place on Monday 23 October, so enabling it to be carried forward into the next parliamentary session after the King’s Speech in November. Hurrah??
Well no. Not at least as far as the implementation of the end of section 21 (and with it, the whole apparatus of changed possession grounds) goes, or so it seems.
In the government’s response to the Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee report on the published Renters (Reform) Bill, is this
In our white paper, ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector,’ we set out a range of court improvements to target those areas which can currently cause frustration and delays. We are working closely with the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunal Service to drive forward improvements to the court possession process so that users have a modern, digital service that will align with the reforms to tenancy law.
Implementation of the new system will not take place until we judge sufficient progress has been made to improve the courts. That means we will not proceed with the abolition of section 21, until reforms to the justice system are in place.
They add, as to the kind of court reforms required:
- 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.
Now, as anyone with current experience of the civil justice system knows, it is in complete meltdown – through underfunding, lack of judges, and high turnover of poorly paid and overloaded court staff. So what this amounts to as an admission that the civil justice system is not fit for purpose under this Govt’s watch. (Ironically, the possession claim system is one of the faster and better administrated parts of the CJS).
But rather than address this, the Govt in the the form of Levelling Up, Homes and Communities, announce that a key reform of housing law, the abolition of section 21, will have to await the creation of a special fast track scheme for landlords.
Court reform, of course is the province of the Ministry of Justice and/or the Civil Justice Committee. It has nothing to do with DLUHC. And there has been not a whisper of any such proposed changes to possession proceedings being enacted or even scoped out. Except, I suppose the Home Loss Prevention Advice service for the last point, and that is struggling to recruit people to sign up, because of the usual appallingly low rates and severe lack of remaining legal aid housing practices to actually do the work.
So, what does this mean? The Govt via DLUHC will not bring in the end of section 21 until the Govt via MoJ has brought in court reforms to give landlords priority boarding passes, and that will take years to implement (if at all). Seriously, court reform, let alone new digital possession proceedings, will take at least two or three years at the minimum to enact.
Thus, unless something changes, the abolition of section 21 will not happen within the term of this government, which will end in early 2024 if not before.
So much for promises, commitments and manifestos. And the homelessness figures, hugely increased already by s.21 evictions without tenant fault, will continue to increase, and the temporary accommodation that council’s already can’t afford will become yet more expensive.
Still, the NRLA are happy, so there is that.