Fergus Blows the Gaff on Section 21

Since the Government announced it was scrapping no-fault evictions by repealing section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 – which enable landords to evict tenants with just two months’ notice for no reason – landlords have been fighting a rearguard action against abolition, claiming that they really only use them when the tenant is at fault.

Renters have always known that landlords use section 21 to retaliate against tenants who complain about their conditions or who object to their landlord’s actions. I’ve been the victim of a revenge eviction myself, and I know of many other renters who’ve been afraid to complain – and current restrictions on revenge evictions aren’t fit for purpose. Renters put up with poor conditions and bad behaviour because they know the alternative may be eviction. Indeed, the ability of landlords to put their tenants out on the street without the renter being at fault is absolutely fundamental to the unequal relationship between them. No wonder they want to keep it.

Landlords and their lobby groups, of course, hotly deny this. They claim that they really only use section 21 when their tenants actually are at fault, and that delays in the civil justice system force them to use a provision that denies renters the ability to effectively defend themselves. Who would want to evict a good tenant? they ask, as though butter wouldn’t melt in their innocent rent-seeking mouths.

Now support for our argument has come from an unexpected source. In a remarkable article on the landlords’ website Property118, Fergus Wilson has lifted the lid on how he – and many other landlords like him – actually use section 21. Deriding renters who complain about their conditions as “Mona Lott” he explains that he serves notice on tenants if they complain, including about a rent increase:

The young couple on Panorama complained about a rent increase and produced a “shopping list” of defects. If a tenant objects to an increase one year they will do so a second year. I deal with it straight away and served a Section 21.

And, he points out, renters who are afraid of eviction stop making complaints:

I have a number of tenants, who have been with me for 10-15 years, who never complain about anything. I assume they must be happy!

Of course they are, Fergus. Although, if you evict everyone who complains, how would you know?

In case Fergus is tempted to sue me again, let me make it crystal clear that there is nothing unlawful in doing this. From a landlord’s point of view, it probably makes good business sense, and he is perfectly within his legal rights to do so. But it’s the job of lawmakers to protect the rights of consumers, including the right to stand up for themselves. Conditions only improve when renters have the confidence to complain, and we need the ability to protest about unfair rent increases, too. This is why section 21 needs to go, and Fergus has illustrated it perfectly.

If I were a landlord doubtless I’d want to save section 21, too. It’s the bedrock of the unfair relationship between landlord and tenant. So please, save us the protestations that it’s never used to maintain that power.

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