The Liberal Democrats passed a motion on the floor of their 2019 autumn party conference this week, agreeing to propose the scrappage of Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, in a move aimed at protecting tenants. This follows the government’s own proposed scrappage of Section 21 in April.
Supporters of the idea claim scrappage of Section 21 ensures that landlords must give a reason for seeking repossession, but critics of the idea believe the move will simply result in indefinite tenancies or fewer landlords putting properties on the market, constricting supply in the private rented sector (PRS).
Scrappage motion passes
Party policy for the Liberal Democrats is agreed during their annual party conferences, and their move to propose the scrappage of Section 21 this year simply highlights the growing support for reforms to private renting across the main political parties.
With the increasing likelihood of a general election in the coming months, especially due to the continued Brexit-related political deadlock, the policy is likely to be included in the next Liberal Democrat manifesto, as the party tries to broaden its support beyond its pro-European support base.
For many years, landlords have been entitled to seek repossession of properties, without having to give a reason. However, in the last 12 months, the three main parties have moved decisively against the idea of no-fault evictions. The Labour Party proposed scrappage back in September 2018, followed by Theresa May’s government just seven months later.
When the government proposed the move to scrap no-fault evictions in April, they argued that they were seeking to end unfair evictions.
The decision by the Liberal Democrats, to come out in support of the scrappage of Section 21, forms a cross-party consensus on reforms for the PRS, especially regarding no-fault evictions.
Housing charity Shelter commended the move, saying: “Good news that the Lib Dems have voted in support of scrapping Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions, after a robust debate. With overwhelming cross-party support, it’s now over to the government to follow through and end Section 21, to give renters more security.”
Mark Platt, a member of Generation Rent and a Liberal Democrat activist, claimed: “Section 21 makes many private renters second-class citizens, forced to endure circumstances that compromise their health or risk their safety, because they are poor or low-waged, or can’t get a foot on the property ladder.”
Mr Platt was responsible for bringing forward the Section 21 motion at this year’s Liberal Democrat autumn conference, having campaigned for the scrappage of no-fault evictions for a number of years.
Mr Platt concluded that the move to scrap Section 21 wouldn’t fix what he called the UK’s broken homes infrastructure, before adding: “but it will be a great start towards ensuring that private renters can have homes as safe and secure as those who are fortunate to own theirs.”