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Section 21 changes: time to prepare for reforms to the eviction system

Section 21 changes: time to prepare for reforms to the eviction systemLetting agents are being urged to do more to protect buy-to-let landlords by preparing now for the government’s plans to scrap Section 21 of the Housing Act, as part of a new Renters’ Reform Bill.

PayProp is advising agents to adapt to upcoming changes to the eviction system by updating key documentation and automating arrears management to cut the chances of having to evict tenants and leave landlords with an unnecessary rental void period.

The lettings payment automation provider wants to see letting agents take the following steps.

Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of the lettings payment automation provider, said: “For some time, the political will – regardless of party – has been to remove Section 21 from the Housing Act 1988 and reform the eviction system.

“Following the Queen’s Speech, letting agents and landlords need to start preparing for change and updating their processes accordingly as it has been confirmed that the evictions process will be reformed through the same Bill.”

Cobbold points out that amendments to the eviction process will see agents needing to update their contract templates and eviction notices to fall in line with a new system – highly likely to revolve around a strengthened Section 8.

He explained: “One of the most important aspects of eviction reform for agents will be educating and informing landlords and tenants about how the new system will work.

“However, on top of this, they will also need to make sure their documents are up-to-date and watertight to evidence their adherence to current and proposed legislation. This will give landlords and tenants the best chance of a smooth eviction process.”

“Agents who adopt thorough record-keeping and arrears management can prove their worth to landlords and increase their chances of new business and client retention.

“Having the right technology and systems in place can be a huge help in making these changes seamless and efficient.”

He says that the removal of Section 21 has the potential to impact the methods landlords use to regain possession of their properties, although he feels that the government’s acknowledgment that it needs to improve the court process was a welcome addition to the Queen’s Speech.

But reforming the grounds for possession has the potential for teething problems and agents could mitigate this by improving their own internal procedures.

Cobbold continued: “With this in mind, agents need to think about the ways they can help to reduce the frequency of evictions. Encouraging good relationships between landlords and tenants is all-important, as is staying on top of repairs and facilitating good communication between both parties.

“Rent arrears are one of the most common reasons for evictions, so agents can help landlords to keep them to a minimum by sending automated emails and text messages – which are proven to be more effective when it comes to chasing rent payments.”