Ending section 21 evictions locally: a draft council letter

This is a draft of a proposal that councils can make about ending ‘no fault’ evictions, in the light of the apparent refusal by the Truss government to honour the 2019 manifesto (and June White Paper).

I am happy to assist councillors and officers further.

DRAFT LETTER

Simon Clarke,

Secretary of State

Dept of Housing, Levelling Up & Communities,

2 Marsham Street

London SW1P 4DF

xx October 2022

Dear Secretary of State

Sustainable Communities Act 2007: A Proposal relating to the need to end ‘no fault’ evictions under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988

This is a Proposal made by xxxxx Council in response to your invitation under section 5A(b) (subsequent invitations) of the above Act. Whilst this proposal relates to the area of xxxx, I am aware of similar proposals from other local authorities.

The Proposal

The proposal is that, in the event that the government chooses not to honour the manifesto commitment of 2019 to end section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, and chooses to step back from the commitment to same made in the June 2022 Policy Paper ‘A fairer private rented sector’, then the government should instead empower xxxx council effectively to stop Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions in circumstances where the council believes that such an eviction would be deleterious to the objective, set out at Section 1(2) the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 of

“encouraging the improvement of the economic, social or environmental well-being of the authority’s area, or part of its area.”

We believe that the most efficient way to achieve this step would be for you, as Secretary of State, to use the power, set out at Section 21((8) of the Housing Act 1988, to lay a Statutory Instrument which will suitably

“prescribe the form of a notice under subsection (1) or (4) given in relation to an assured shorthold tenancy of a dwelling-house in England.”

Specifically, the form of these notices, which are those by which landlords may seek to bring about ‘no fault’ evictions, should be prescribed in such a way that the landlord or landlords seeking eviction authority from the courts should first have approval from the local authority to do so.

As noted above, the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 allows a council to seek new powers in the interests only of the sustainability of its own area, but we suggest it would make sense for you, should you choose to lay the Statutory Instrument we propose here, to do so in way that it is nationally applicable, especially as ours may not be the only such proposal made under the Act.

Rationale for the proposal

The proposal is submitted in the context of press reports that the government does not intend to bring forward legislation in this parliament in fulfillment of the promises made in the June 2022 Policy Paper ‘A fairer private rented sector’.

This is of course a matter for the government, but what is clear is that, within this council area, there is and will be a great deal of renewed anxiety among people who live in private rented accommodation that, at a time when rent costs are spiralling along with other aspects of cost of living’, landlords may choose the ‘no fault’ eviction route as a way to increase rental incomes.

Sucn recent developments in the rental housing market come on top of the findings, already set out In the Policy Paper, about the impacts upon people and communities of Section 21 notices (and threat of such. The Executive Summary to the Policy Paper, for example, notes that:

“The prospect of being evicted without reason at two months’ notice (so called ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions) can leave tenants feeling anxious and reluctant to challenge poor practice. Families worry about moves that do not align to school terms, and tenants feel they cannot put down roots in their communities or hold down stable employment [emphasis in original].

It is therefore clearly within the scope of this council’s responsibility for well-being within the communities we serve, to seek a swift alternative route towards a way of curtailing ‘no fault’ evictions, in a way which circumvents the need, at least for now, for primary legislation. Use of the provision for the empowerment of local authorities, as set out the Sustainable Communities act 2007 (as amended in 2010), will allow us to this, with your engagement.

In this latter respect, section 21(9) of the Housing Act 1988, as amended in the Deregulation Act 2015 should also be noted:

“A statutory instrument containing regulations made under subsection (8) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”

This paragraph in the Act seems particularly apposite here, since the Statutory Instrument we seek in this proposal can and should be swiftly annulled in the event of the government fulfilling its manifesto promise by bringing forward primary legislation in fulfillment of the June 2022 Policy Paper

Consultation

We have not undertaken formal consultation in advance of the submission of this proposal. This is because of the urgent need to move towards a settlement with yourself, given the cost of living crisis, but also because the Policy Paper referred to above is backed by a significant level of consultation. The consultation findings, and government response, were both greatly in favour of ending ‘no fault’ evictions, and what we propose here is simply a different route to achieve that broadly agreed policy aim.

Next Steps

I look forward to the publication of your decision and reasons in relation to this proposal as set out in the Regulations to the 2007 Act (as amended). In light of the urgency of the issues set out above, and the potential for significant impacts on our area and its citizens, I am sure that you’ll agree the importance of an early response.

Yours sincerely

Council leader

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Paul Cotterill

Secretary General, Habermasian Labour (UK). Indefatigably focused on the promotion of ethical discourse in the public sphere, except when there's cricket.