Attempts to curb unreasonable use of section 21 Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather made a valiant attempt to introduce a private members bill that sought to provide a defence for tenants who are victims of retaliatory evictions. The Tenancies Reform Bill offered a ‘reasonable defence’ for tenants who fall victim to unscrupulous landlords who refuse to carry out their statutory obligations to make good repairs or who receive complaints against them.
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, providing it is served correctly, offers very little defence for the tenant and is seen as a major injustice that needs reform. The ‘no fault’ eviction notice has also been seen as a major barrier in tackling the prevention of homelessness with Shelter research indicating 213,000 people are victims having complained about a problem in their home. However, the bill was talked out in the Commons by two conservative MPs despite cross-party support.
The Welsh Tenants in response to the development of tenancy reform here in Wales and in considering the drafting of the Rented Homes Bill in Wales has recommended that the Welsh Government introduce a proper defence against Section 21 following the Law Commissions review in 2002 and their revisit of the Rented Homes recommendations in 2010-11.
The bill as introduced in England, could yet end up on the statute books with secondary regulations being introduced here in Wales as Liberal Democrat peers; Baroness Bakewell, Baroness Grender, Lord Stoneham and Lord Tope have taken up Sarah’s fight on behalf of private tenants including it an amendment to the Deregulation Bill which will be considered by the House of Lords early in the new year. We are still hopeful that this will proceed irrespective of the success or otherwise in England.
It appears then that the momentum for reform of section 21 is gaining pace in both Wales and in England and that a better defence against the unjust serving of a no fault eviction following requests for repairs will soon change. Some would say not soon enough!