The RLA’s Policy Manager John Stewart reports on what the RLA has been doing to protect members’ rights in the face of government proposals to abolish Section 21. In this article John thanks members for taking time out to respond to surveys and providing the evidence base upon which our campaigning is based.

Introduction

The RLA occasionally carries out ad hoc research on specific topics.  Our survey on possession reform is the most recent example.  It’s no surprise that such a fundamental issue should attract the largest ever response – over 6,000 completed surveys were returned. 

How we have taken this response forward is also crucial.  This post reports on what the RLA have done since the call for responses, and how the input of landlords has been crucial in influencing the debate.

Possession Reform–The Fight for Section 21

As well as demonstrating the strength of feeling of landlords, the sample size means the data gathered is significant and can be relied upon.  Remember – many opinion polls sample between one and two thousand people about their voting intention and policy views – and often receive headline coverage!

We use the data we gather in many different ways.  For our possession reform survey, we released headline information very quickly after the survey closed, and before any in-depth analysis.  MHCLG had not yet published its consultation document on plans to end the Section 21 (s21) possession process.  Sharing these high level statistics gave an opportunity to influence the direction of the consultation. 

Possession Reform Research: Our Findings

Our data highlighted the importance of s21 to landlords, their willingness to continue on the sector in the event of removal or reform, attitudes to the Section 8 (s8) possession process, appetite for new s8 grounds, and court experience of members who had cause to evict tenants. 

It is evident from the published consultation that some of these concerns were recognised, with a clear commitment to improve s8 grounds, seek to speed up the court process, the possible retention of an accelerated possession process, the need for exemptions and that any legislation will not apply retrospectively.

As well as highlighting the need for landlords to have a speedy and certain process to recover a property to protect the supply of rental homes, the report showed that those landlords who would remain tin the sector would become more choosy about who they let to.  Vulnerable tenants, those claiming benefits or perceived as a high risk in terms of arrears, anti-social behaviour or causing damage to a property would all find it harder to find a home – at a time when central and local government are dependent on private landlords to meet growing demand.

The report debunked the myth of so-called ‘no fault evictions’ under s21, with most tenants being asked to leave for rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.  This was mirrored by a lack of confidence on the s8 grounds-based process, and the wider court and bailiff system.  There was overwhelming support for new s8 grounds, more mandatory grounds for possession and a specialist housing court.

There was also a message for Government, in terms of making use of taxation to either soften the reforms, or to encourage a market for properties with tenants in occupation, as one consequence of possession reform could see more tenants evicted in order to sell with vacant possession.

Making an Impact: Influencing Policy Change

Our in-depth analysis, published in July, sought to spell out the steps the Government must take to retain landlord confidence and continued investment. We were also able to pull out case studies, to illustrate the key findings, bring real life experience and add a human face to the statistics.

The report received widespread coverage across the media, with leading articles in the Times and Telegraph, and on BBC News bulletins.

We have also been able to pull out sections of the report, and focus in more detail on particular issues, for example, court reform. This gives a fresh opportunity to highlight our research in the media and deliver briefings on specific areas of policy, of interest to professionals in that area.

Following the change of Prime Minister, the research formed the basis of the RLA’s briefings for new ministers, following their appointment, and for civil servants and special advisors. This Boris Johnson-led Government would appear to be more free-market –  therefore it may be more open to argument based on the evidence provided by our research. It may also have more pressing priorities!

The data, widely shared with stakeholders in the PRS, has also been used in news items and opinion pieces, to press the case for a new housing court, reform of the s8 process and the need to retain fixed term tenancies for certain parts of the market.

Some final thoughts

Our campaigning is only possible with the ongoing support of our members. 

The RLA undertakes regular research with our members throughout the year as well as on specific topics such as s21. The results of these quarterly surveys allow us to examine attitudes to legislative changes, monitor and track key statistics in the sector and test reaction to new policy proposals. 

The information we gather in these surveys is crucial to informing our policy and campaigns work on your behalf, ensuring Government and other stakeholders know the feelings and attitudes of private landlords.  Over 2,000 of you respond to these surveys each quarter and we incredibly grateful for your time and trust.

Our ability to lead debate, influence decisions and successfully campaign is dependent on both your input and our rigorous analysis of the information you provide.

Thank you!!