Renters (Reform) Bill: Will the court process for evictions be improved? - Total Landlord Insurance

May 1, 2024
Renters (Reform) Bill: Will the court process for evictions be improved? - Total Landlord Insurance

Note: Articles on the Renters (Reform) Bill will be continuously updated as details emerge

Last updated  29  April 2024

Read an interactive and user-friendly version of this guide below.

Renters (Reform) Bill update: Third reading

The long awaited Renters (Reform) Bill returned to Commons for its third reading (the report stage) on 24 April 2024, where MPs considered over 200 new amendments to the legislation from both sides of the house ahead of a final vote before the Bill continues its passage to the House of Lords.

MPs backed the Government’s amendment requiring the Lord Chancellor to assess the county court possession order process before no-fault evictions can be abolished. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC),  maintains that the Bill will “give landlords strengthened grounds for possession if a tenant is in rent arrears or they want to sell their property – we are investing in the county courts so that landlords can benefit from a modern, efficient possession system.”

Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action, which like Total Landlord is powered by Total Property, is in agreement that court reforms are necessary to make sure the system can effectively handle the increase in Section 8 proceedings that will result from the abolition of Section 21.

“The court system is the worst I have seen it in 30 years and landlords who simply want out of buy to let are calling me in disbelief that it is taking up to nine months from serving notice to regaining possession. Ultimately, there is a ‘wish list’ of what court reforms would ideally look like, and then there are the realistic and practical steps which must be taken in order to streamline the process, improve efficiency and crucially, accommodate the natural surge in cases which will happen when all evictions rely on Section 8.”


For an overview of amendments to the Bill following the report stage, head over to our Renters (Reform) Bill hub.

The process of implementation is confusing following these amendments, so we recommend reading this detailed blog, ‘When exactly will Section 21 be abolished?’ by leading housing lawyer and Partner at JMW Solicitors, David Smith, who specialises in property rights.

The court process for evictions: What has changed?

In his statement to the House introducing the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill in October 2023, the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, reiterated the Government's commitment to reforming the private rented sector.

However, while he emphasised that the Government remains committed to the removal of Section 21 and strengthening Section 8, he also confirmed the need for improvements to the way courts handle legitimate possession cases before Section 21 is abolished.  This means that the Government will not proceed with the abolition of Section 21 until reforms to the justice system are in place.

The Government has identified four key areas that need to be addressed before Section 21 is abolished. These are:

  1. Digitising more of the court process to make it simpler and easier for landlords to use
  2. Prioritising certain cases for example those that involve antisocial behaviour.
  3. Improving bailiff recruitment and retention
  4. Providing early legal advice and better signposting to help tenants

The Government also said it will ‘introduce a ground for possession that will facilitate the yearly cycle of short-term student tenancies’.

The detail of these improvements to the court process is not yet clear and neither is how they will be measured, so they may take some time to introduce.

We will update this article again as more details emerge. Read on for more background to the proposals on changes to the court process for evictions.

Background to the court process for evictions

Note: this section was published on 22 May 2023 following the introduction of the Bill to Parliament on 17 May 2023

The Government has sought to placate landlords over its plans to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions by saying it will make sure the court system is improved to speed up the process for those seeking possession orders.

Many landlords worry, correctly, that a tsunami of possession orders could hit the courts once Section 21 goes and that the already stretched courts system will – in a worst-case scenario – collapse.

According to Ministry of Justice and NRLA figures, the average time for an eviction to move from‘ notice’ to possession order is 22 weeks or nearly six months, although in extreme cases it can take up to a year.

And during Covid, when the courts all but shut down, it was taking 42 weeks on average, or ten months.

The challenge posed by this change is that around a third of all possession cases are Section 21 notices which are ‘accelerated’ claims that bypass the courts system.

So after Section 21 goes, a third more possession cases will be trundling through the courts.

A report by a committee of MPs recently flagged up that the Government appeared not to realise that unless the courts system is reformed, a ‘car crash’ is looming.

As the NRLA put it:

“With no commitments to increasing court capacity it remains to be seen how the system will cope, or how long landlords will be expected to wait for a hearing or ultimately repossession”.

At the moment ministers are relying on two key strategies to overcome this – ‘prioritisation’ (i.e. picking the most pressing evictions for action such as anti-social behaviour cases) and mediation (i.e. ‘trying to stop landlords and tenants getting to court in the first place).

Chris Norris, Policy Director at the NRLA, adds:

“When dealing with cases of anti-social behaviour or extreme arrears, being able to jump the queue will no-doubt help, but it is far from a solution to the inevitable pressure that the courts service will come under once the Renters (Reform) Bill becomes a reality”.

The Government has been listening to the NRLA and others on this point, and in March this year housing secretary Michael Gove announced that, as part of a wider crack-down on anti-social behaviour, the Bill would include measures enabling landlords to evict badly-behaved tenants in around two weeks, rather than two months.

Responding to the Bill,

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said:

“Responsible landlords need to be confident that when Section 21 ends, where they have a legitimate reason, they will be able to repossess their properties as quickly as possible. Without this assurance, the Bill will only exacerbate the rental housing supply crisis many tenants now face.

Whilst we welcome the Government’s pledge to ensure landlords can effectively recover properties from anti-social tenants and those failing to pay rent, more detail is needed if the Bill is going to work as intended.

Ministers must develop a plan to improve the speed and efficiency with which the courts process possession claims. Although the Government has accepted NRLA calls to digitise cases, staff numbers need to increase in the court system as well to meet the needs of these reforms." 

What has yet to be revealed in detail is how the ‘beefed up’ Section 8 process will help protect landlords from tenants who have significant rent arrears.

Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, says:

“The Section 8 notice and associated grounds will become the norm [but there] are various aspects of Section 8 that need considerable revision before Section 21 can be fully abolished.

I believe it will need to be a phased ending to allow the courts time to clear the backlog from the last two years and for all grounds to be considered and revised appropriately.”

As noted above, at the second reading of the Bill the Government confirmed.

For more insights on the Renters (Reform) Bill, listen to a special episode of The Property Cast with Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, and leading property expert Kate Faulkner OBE, who share their initial reactions to the Renters (Reform) Bill – will it deliver what tenants need and will it have unintended consequences? Tune in to find out what the experts think.

Keep up to date on the Renters (Reform) Bill

Our media partner, LandlordZONE, offers exclusive insights and breaking news on the private rented sector. Keep up to date with everything you need to know by subscribing to LandlordZONE, the UK’s largest online landlord property news website.

You can also visit Total Landlord's Renters (Reform) Bill hub which will be regularly updated as more details emerge.

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