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Category Archives: Analysis

Government plans to speed up tenant evictions

Possession orderThere has been a bit of publicity recently surrounding the government’s working group to consider speeding up evictions.

As I have been involved in this initiative (I was invited to the working group and attended one of the meetings), I am writing this post just to explain the thinking behind it – as I see it.

Its not the government wanting to give landlords the powers to boot tenants out quickly willy nilly.  Quite the reverse really.

Why quicker evictions would be a Good Thing

There has also been a lot of publicity recently on Shelters report on retaliatory eviction (i.e. where landlords evict tenants because they have tried to assert their rights, e.g. regarding essential repair works).

This (i.e. retaliatory eviction) is obviously a Bad Thing.

However in my view it is equally bad when landlords whose tenants are either not paying rent, or are behaving badly, are forced to continue housing them during the long winded eviction process – which can take up to six months or more.

Why longer eviction periods for clear cases is bad

It is bad because:

  • it is unfair on the landlord, who still has to pay his own mortgage and other outgoings on the property
  • The landlord is also still responsible under the landlords statutory repairing obligations and the various health and safety regulations – which may be difficult for them to afford if there is no rental income
  • If the tenant is not paying rent, longer eviction periods inevitably means that the rent arrears will exceed the deposit money held
  • It is unfair on other tenants who are paying their rent and behaving responsibly – who will not like to see bad tenants ‘getting away with it’, and
  • Anti social tenants can also cause enormous distress to their neighbours – who realistically have very limited options to do anything about it themselves, other than by moving home

Perhaps the point should also be made here, that under the current system private landlords are effectively being forced to house non paying tenants for free for long periods of time.

This is clearly not right – they are not charities or social housing organisations.  Many landlords depend on their rent for their income – for example pensioners who have rental properties instead of a traditional pension.

Long term tenancies

There is also the quesiton of longer fixed terms for tenancies.  This is often desirable :

  • from the tenants point of view because they can put down roots – especially important if there are children attending local schools
  • from the governments point of view because longer fixed terms lead to more stable communities

So far as landlords are concerned, longer fixed terms are very attractive if they have good tenants as it gives them a stable income with no voids.

However if their tenants are involved in anti social behaviour or (maybe more critically for a landlord) are not paying their rent – they have lost the more straightforward eviction route via section 21.

This is because section 21 can ONLY be used after a fixed term has ended.

The problem with other (non s21) grounds for possession

If a landlord uses the rent arrears or bad tenant grounds for eviction (the only grounds available during the fixed term of the tenancy), it is relatively easy for tenants to enter flimsy or even completely fictitious defences, which can have the effect of snarling the litigation up for long periods.

During which time the tenants cannot be removed from the property.

So unless a means is found for landlords to evict genuine cases of bad or non paying tenants quickly and easily, it is against their interests to grant tenants fixed terms any longer than a year.

The desired outcome

This is what the working party is looking at – whether a way can be found to implement a quicker eviction process for the straightforward cases, while still allowing tenants with genuine defences to put their claim before the court.

If this can be done, then it opens the way to longer fixed terms, say three to five years.  Which is what I understand the government would like.

Also, as s21 would not be available, it would go some way to PREVENT retaliatory eviction – at least for those tenants enjoying the longer fixed terms.

If it can be done – what do YOU think about it?

Note: the contents of this post are my own thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department for Communities and Local Government or any of the attendees at the working group meetings.

You can read more about my ideas in my free ebook which you can download from >> here.

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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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