A membership body for private residential landlords says the government’s forthcoming housing white paper must strike a fair balance between the needs of tenants and landlords as it unveiled its own blueprint for rental reforms.
The white paper will focus on the government’s commitment to abolish section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions to improve security for tenants and strengthen repossession grounds for landlords when they have valid grounds.
The National Residential Landlords Association is now urging the government to carefully consider its ideas, contained in a ‘shadow white paper’ unveiled this week.
The association has devised a new system of grounds for landlords to repossess properties when there has been a ‘fault’ or they need vacant possession to enact a ‘legitimate business decision’ such as selling the property, moving in or making substantial changes to the property.
Landlords would give two months’ notice where they intend to sell the property and have instructed a solicitor to begin the conveyancing process.
There would be a 14-day notice period where a tenant is in rent arrears of at least two months when the repossession notice was served and in arrears of more than one month by the time of a court hearing.
‘This should replace the existing ground 8 in order to explicitly cover arrears where rent is paid weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly and annually. At present defendants are able to argue the mandatory ground does not apply where the rent is payable every 4 weeks or every 6 months. This loophole should be closed as part of the reforms,’ the association says.
The association claims the court system, as currently set up, is not working for landlords or tenants. Landlords are frustrated at how long the court process takes. Tenants lack confidence applying to court and many do not bring disrepair claims, deterred by the complexity of the process and length of time involved.
The blueprint proposes greater use of informal resolution and a publicly funded ACAS-style conciliation service to reduce the number of cases going to court.
To speed up cases that go to court, a new sifting and signposting service would determine scheduling priorities and direct tenants to advisory and legal support services. For cases that cannot be heard remotely, courts should also use buildings such as community centres and village halls.
Ben Beadle, the association’s chief executive, said: ‘More broadly, it is vital that the forthcoming White Paper strikes a fair balance between the needs of both tenants and landlords. It is in that spirit that we continue to work with the government and others to develop workable policies that protect tenants from bad landlords whilst ensuring good landlords have the confidence to provide the homes to rent the country desperately needs.’
Earlier this year the government began piloting mediation as part of the current court process for possession cases. With a working convened by the master of the rolls looking at next steps for possession proceedings, the Housing Law Practitioners Association has been liaising with groups representing tenants and borrowed to develop a plan to inform future arrangements.