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Abolition of section 21 – not anytime soon says Government


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.



Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. Paul

    They need a slow clap for – just everything – until they are out of office. I’ll start. Clap.

    • Maggie Nelson

      C l a p !

  2. witstert


  3. David

    What a crock of dung, if they remove S21 then all those S21 cases that are in place or would be in place will be GONE, You are absolutely right about it all being at breaking point, in fact I think it is already broken and not fit for purpose.

    My theory is that they don’t want to give concessions to Landlords on tax so they throw them this bone in a hope to keep some votes at the next election. I think they would actually have won more votes by pushing this through so they can live up to their promise to get rid of this system. I suppose that they could be giving time to those that are desperate to sell rather than pay new interest rates could be a factor, but again, it is better for the housing market if those that would cash out are forced to keep their properties.

  4. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    “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”………so basically not in many people’s lifetimes

  5. Ian Narbeth

    “And the homelessness figures, hugely increased already by s.21 evictions without tenant fault, will continue to increase”.

    This echoes the line pushed by Shelter that receiving a section 21 notice is a cause of homelessness. Not correct. It’s like saying an individual being sacked is the cause of an increase in unemployment figures. Serving a s21 notice does not mean a property is no longer available to rent.

    The causes of homelessness include that there are too many people chasing too few properties, not enough new properties are being constructed, net immigration is increasing and, crucially, that many landlords who don’t need to rent out their property are ceasing to do because they feel under attack. Add in the extra regulation (which as a whole is unduly burdensome, even if good reasons can be given for any particular instance) and you have a perfect storm. Landlords are not happy and tenants are not happy because they face higher rents and more stringent criteria for being accepted. If more CCJs are registered against tenants, many will find that they can no longer rent in the private sector. Housing Associations may also choose the person with a decent credit score over the one who left his last property with substantial arrears. At present tenants simply say “I was served a s21 notice” and keep quiet about the arrears, damage to property or antisocial behaviour.

    Section 21 is used (in most cases, I suspect though by definition because no reason is given, nobody can prove it) where there is fault such as non-payment of rent, failure to allow access to deal with repairs or carry out safety checks or because of anti-social behaviour. Tenants know that they will have to go and so for the most part do leave.

    Landlords are involuntary creditors and if a tenant stops paying rent the debt increases every day. If there are 9 months to a year’s worth of arrears, landlords will be left substantially out of pocket. Speed up possessions – and introduce penalties for wilfully disobeying court orders “until the bailiffs turn up” and some confidence might be restored. Shrugging your shoulders when a landlord loses a five figure sum is an unhelpful response.

    It does tenants as a whole no good when tenant charities and advocacy groups give the impression that landlords can go hang and that the harder they are hit with new rules the better. Since 2015, when George Osborne introduced s24 tax changes, there has been little if anything to benefit landlords but a lot of pro-tenant legislation. The result? What we have now. Time perhaps to think again?

    Antisocial behaviour will be almost impossible for landlords to deal with one s21 goes. It will be even worse in HMOs where the complainant and antisocial tenant live under the same roof and where conduct that does not reach the threshold for ASB can make life very unpleasant for other housemates. Victims are too frightened to give evidence. I would be interested to hear from tenant groups now how they think victims of ASB will be protected.

    Labour, assuming they win the Election, may bring the Renters Reform Bill in before the court system is reformed. I predict that will make matters much worse for tenants than they are now.

    • Giles Peaker


      The single largest reason a homeless application is receiving a section 21 notice. Local authorities can, and most certainly do, ‘go behind’ the notice to find out the cause of an eviction. If they can find intentional homelessness, they will, because it spares them the housing duty. So rent arrears, ASB etc would be grist to their mill. Nevertheless, the single largest cause of homelessness on applications where the full duty is accepted is termination (by s.21) of a PRS tenancy. Ie, these are cases where there is no tenant fault on which to hang a finding of intentional homelessness.

      You also completely misunderstand the law on evictions. A assured shorthold tenancy doesn’t end until eviction. To say a tenant staying in place after a possession order is ‘wilfully disobeying’ a court order is simply wrong.

      If you do want to make these kind of arguments for keeping s.21, it helps to get the law right.

    • Paul

      9 months to a year’s worth of arrears. Really? If a landlord can’t get to grips with grounds 8, 10 and 11, and / or dosent have insurance, they really shouldn’t be a landlord. Sorry. I have no sympathy. If you are charging money for a service, that is the definition of a professional. I would assert professionals should know how to do their jobs, including the law. If they don’t, what other issues affecting their tenants do they brush over? In my experience significant issues and nearly legal practices either by mistake or less so.

      If, as you say, they don’t like it, let’s have a buy back of all the properties in the prs as a result of the right to buy. Based on the discount originally applied of course, and any repair costs required. They’ve cashed in on lha time to cash out and get some social properties back. Alternatively, limit the lha rates to hb levels to prevent the exploitation of shared housing on the one bed rate.

      • Ian Narbeth

        Paul, if you are saying that landlords should only let when they can obtain rent guarantee insurance, a lot of people who are currently tenants would not be accepted. The cost of obtaining insurance for all tenancies will increase rents across the board.

        Your definition of “professional” would encompass every business in the country that charged for a good or service.

        I have not bought any properties under right to buy. That aside, even if such properties were bought back, as you suggest that would not increase the housing stock in the country or reduce the demand for it. We would still have a housing shortage.

    • Paul

      As a renter of 30 years until 2 years ago I can tell you that many landlords use Section 21 to avoid repairs or to raise rents without argument. Most renters dare not report rogue landlords as then they have no reference for the next property. I had at least three properties where there were bare mains wires that could have killed my children. There are a few good landlords out there but mostly they are people farmers living off the back of other people’s wages or benefits. The misery caused to tenants can be enormous.

  6. Ian Narbeth

    Tenants will apply to Councils after receiving a s21 but my argument is that the cause of them becoming homeless is there are not enough properties at rents they can afford. If there were such properties available, they could find another property and would not need to go to the Council.

    I am talking about staying in occupation after the date by which the order says they are to leave. If I as a landlord or you or I as solicitors ignored a court order to do X by a certain date, there would be adverse consequences. If a tenant ignores a possession order, the landlord is put to further cost and delay in arranging for bailiffs to carry out the eviction. The tenant gains extra time in the property and increases the rent arrears which in many cases are irrecoverable. Some tenants’ financial situation may be difficult but why is it wrong to say that a tenant staying in place after the date stated in the order is wilfully disobeying the order?

    • Giles Peaker


      There are the big reasons for homelessness. Increasing unaffordability of private tenancies because of rent increases (regardless of whether the landlord has mortgage liabilities or not) is one of them, certainly. Perhaps we should make sure there are enough properties at affordable rents?

      As the notes to an N26 possession order says “The court has ordered you to leave the property by the date stated in paragraph 1 above. If you do not do so, the claimant can ask the court, without a further hearing, to authorise a bailiff or Sheriff to evict you. (In that case, you can apply to the court to stay the eviction; a judge will decide if there are grounds for doing so.)”. So there we are, the order itself makes clear that the consequence of not leaving is that the landlord can get a warrant to physically eject the tenant.

      The law, courtesy of the House of Lords (as was) is perfectly clear – an assured tenancy continues until eviction by warrant. So the tenant remains the tenant until that point, and as such, entitled to occupy the property. Of course, there is also the risk of the LA alleging intentional homelessness if they leave before at least notice of eviction.

      (And you have a remarkably rosy idea of there being consequences for solicitors failing to comply with court orders on time. It appears to be common, and often consequence-free – take failing to file and serve a defence on time. I, for claimant, make an application for default judgment. Defendant files a defence before the application is heard, weeks or months after it should have done. Result? Default judgment application fails. Those are the rules.)

  7. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    @Ian I know that landlords always decry the argument that s21 increases homelessness on the basis that despite being a no fault eviction, Landlords ‘Only use it when there is a real reason behind it” I reiterate Giles’ point about homelessness units looking beyond accelerated possession to the reasons behind the application as a source of intentional homelessness as well as unreasonable to remain due to lack of affordability of rent.

    But I would also point you to the latest released government figures on on statutory homelessness cases for the past year “increases in number of households (with and without children) owed a homelessness duty due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy. In particular, large increases were seen in the end of assured shorthold tenancies due to landlords wishing to sell or re-let properties”.

    Your arguments reversing the logic and joining the popular campaign call for more properties to rent as the sole solution, denies the fact that landlords do in fact evict tenants for no fault and that such decisions are driven by profit and business logic and that there has, again according to the same government figures published in the past 7 days, been a “22.1% increase, to 54,320 households, in those threatened with homelessness due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy”

  8. Donna S

    I watched some of the Second Reading debate yesterday. It was dispiriting to see the government kick the can down the road (again). As you say, the proposed reforms to the courts will take years. During the debate Nathalie Elphicke (MP for Dover and member of DLUHC Select Committee) cited government statistical data about a reduction in Court processing times for possession hearings which seemed to undermine the government’s argument for deferring implementation. Sadly Michael Gove did not respond to that point…

    • Ron Platt

      And that is the standard response!


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