In 1988, Section 21 of the Housing Act drove a bulldozer through decades of carefully considered law about the circumstances in which an eviction was fair or justified. Under Section 21, all a landlord has to do to seize a family’s home is serve the correct notice. In 2004, in response to landlords’ increasingly abusive demands for tenancy deposits, the government introduced compulsory deposit protection schemes.
The courts were clearly aware of the shocking power imbalance between private landlords and their precariously housed tenants, and they took the opportunity to interpret the tenancy deposit laws quite strictly. As the result of a case called Superstrike v Rodrigues landlords were required to comply with the deposit protection regulations for a second time if a tenant stayed on after the end of a ‘fixed term’ tenancy, otherwise the landlord’s Section 21 notice would be invalid.
However, the government decided that this was too onerous a task for the people who sit there profiting from people’s basic need for a home. In order to exploit the housing crisis for profit with minimum inconvenience, the government has now eased the regulations through the Deregulation Act 2015. It comes into effect this week.
Landlords no longer need to overcome the small hurdle of re-protecting a deposit, and giving their tenants information about the scheme again. Landlords argued that this simple act of regulatory compliance was a ‘loophole’, and that they shouldn’t possibly be expected to put up with it. For many tenants it was the only argument available: the only thing standing between their homes and the oppressive regime of indefensible (in both a legal and a moral sense) ‘no-fault evictions’.
The massive harm of Section 21 on housing does not need to be explained in detail. The housing crisis speaks for itself. The law treats houses as landlords’ financial assets rather than people’s homes, and the effects of that are clear in the extortionate rents, precarious leases and poor housing conditions that so many people have no choice but to endure.
A brief glimmer of hope – a viable defence to ‘no fault’ evictions’ – has been put out.
In addition, although the government has also passed a new law that makes it more difficult to evict people who have complained about the condition of their home (‘revenge evictions’), they have not said when they will bring it into force. The two laws were two parts of the same Act of Parliament, but the government rushed through the section that helps landlords and sat on the bit that helped tenants. The government knows which side its bread is buttered, and it’s not the millions of victims of the housing crisis whose interests they have in mind.
Without security of tenure, tenants’ rights are worthless.
Abolish Section 21! Secure homes for all!