By the time you read this article, the fundamental nature of the private rental sector in London may well have changed forever. Landlords could be gnashing their teeth in fury while renters throw house parties in celebration (without violating the terms of their lease, of course).
What we’re talking about is the decision of the London assembly to urge Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, to in turn lobby the Government to put an end to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
That’s a hell of a long chain. The London Assembly doesn’t have the power to change the law, but it does have the power to ask Mr Khan to do something. Mr Khan doesn’t have the power to change the law, but he does have the power, as do all individuals, to back a campaign to petition Her Majesty’s Government to change the law.
It’s tenuous, and as rent.works reported last week, the Tories are already considering amending the housing act to support three year minimum tenancies, while Labour are pushing for exactly this change.
The vote was incorrectly reported by other property news outlets as being unanimous. This was not in fact the case, and rent.works examined two and a half hours of video footage in an unsuccessful effort to determine whether or not the vote was along party lines. In any case, the motion passed with a vote of 12 for, and five against.
Having watched the debate in full, we’re in a position to give you some moderately interesting statistics raised by Sian Berry who tabled the motion.
- 80% of evictions are on these no fault grounds.
- 63% of people evicted in 2016 lost their homes because private landlords wanted to sell or use their homes for something else.
- 43% of renters – almost half – have had to move, at some point, when they didn’t want to.
Shocking. And Ms Berry went further in her criticism of section 21, saying that, “These evictions are the the leading cause of homelessness, and for every person who avoids homelessness due to section 21, there is still a huge cost due to stress, disruption to family life, and all the costs of moving. The total harm is huge.
“These are people’s homes first and foremost, not a low hassle investment opportunity. Six months security, followed by the endless threat of Section 21 is not secure housing. If landlords don’t want to provide long term homes for people, they shouldn’t be landlords.”
Arguments against the repeal of section 21 were (in our opinion) fatuous at best, with Conservative member and libertarian, Andrew Boff raising the straw man spectre of students who stay in their digs forever and ever.
He also said that that scrapping the controversial section would worsen the housing crisis, “Landlords will of course increase their rents because they will have no prospect of removal, so that has to be factored into their calculation.”
It’s worth noting that Mr Boff last year spoke out against proposals to ‘name and shame’ criminal landlords and letting agents who exploit tenants. He frequently protests the prospect of rent controls.
So, what happens now?
We spoke to a London Assembly press officer who told us that, “There’s a formal process – all motions go to the mayor’s office, and he responds to them in due course.” She added in a later email, “It can take weeks.”