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Landlord and Tenant: Government Plans to Abolish ‘No Fault Evictions’
The Government has recently shared its intention to abolish Landlords’ ability to evict residential Tenants using the Section 21 Notice procedure, also known as a ‘no fault’ eviction. The change has been described as “the biggest shake-up to the private rented sector in England and Wales for a considerable time”. The Section 21 procedure is set out in the Housing Act 1988 and applies to Assured Shorthold Tenancies (“AST”) which are the most common type of residential tenancy.
The proposed removal of Section 21 intends to provide a layer of protection for residential Tenants who can currently be evicted by their Landlords with as little as 8 weeks’ notice, with no reason provided, at any time after the expiration of the fixed term.
Contact our Dispute Resolution Team today for further legal advice.
What is the Section 21 Notice Procedure?
ASTs run for an agreed Term, after which either the tenancy continues or the Landlord or the Tenant may give notice to end the tenancy. What this means is that a Landlord is able to end the Tenancy without giving a specific reason for it.
The requirements for giving Notice are that at least 2 months’ notice must be given to the Tenant (or 6 months for social housing Tenancies) and a specific prescribed form of Notice must be used. A copy of the form can be found here:
For a Section 21 Notice to be valid, Tenants must have also been supplied with certain information such as the Energy Performance Certificate and Gas Safety Certificate and other prescribed information. As long as the requirements are met, a Landlord is able to evict a Tenant without the need to go to Court to obtain an Order for Possession.
There is a restriction on serving a Section 21 Notice and this arises where a Tenant has given notice to the Landlord that improvement is required in the property, so where the property is in a state of disrepair. This prevents Landlords from serving a Section 21 Notice to end the tenancy purely on the grounds of the Tenant complaining about disrepair.
The Effect on Tenants
Tenants do not use the Section 21 procedure to end their Tenancy. Tenants must simply provide sufficient notice to the Landlord, in accordance with the Terms of their Tenancy, in order to do so. The removal of Section 21 therefore has no effect on Tenants’ rights to end their Tenancy.
One potential issue for Tenants as a result of the removal of Section 21 is that Landlords may be more likely to scrutinise potential Tenants before agreeing to enter into a Tenancy Agreement with them; if it is harder to remove a Tenant then Landlords are likely to be much more diligent in choosing Tenants. This could leave some Tenants unable to find a Landlord that will accept them. It is also a concern that the change could lead Landlords to increase rents or lead to a reduction in properties being let out.
The removal of Section 21 is intended to provide protection for Tenants. It is believed that ‘no-fault’ evictions are leading to homelessness in some circumstances. The proposed reform aims to ensure that Tenancies last longer which, in turn, creates more security for Tenants.
On the whole, the change is intended to be for the benefits of Tenants. In fact, the Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, said “by abolishing these kinds of evictions, every single person living in the private rented sector will be empowered to make the right housing choices for themselves – not having it made for them.”
The Effect on Landlords
The effect of the removal of Section 21 for Landlords is difficulty in evicting Tenants who have broken their Tenancy Agreements.
Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 sets out a number of grounds whereby Landlords may evict Tenants for reasons such as non-payment of rent, damage to the property or anti-social behaviour. The Section 8 grounds are harder to enforce than the Section 21 procedure as they require specific evidence and some grounds are down to the discretion of a Judge. In addition, the Court process in seeking possession under Section 8 is lengthy, it can take up to 5 months from issuing a claim to obtaining possession.
As a result, Section 21 is often used by Landlords as an alternative to Section 8 when regaining possession of their property. With the abolishment of Section 21, the process of evicting Tenants on grounds of breach of Tenancies will be very cumbersome.
In attempt to combat the issue, the Government have proposed to add two further grounds under Section 8 to allow more flexibility for Landlords who wish to repossess their properties. Landlords will be able to serve Notice if they intend to sell the property and also if they intend to move into it themselves. The Government also intends to simplify the Court process to assist Landlords further in swiftly evicting Tenants who are in breach of their Tenancy.
The Government’s plans moving forward are to launch a consultation giving further details on the proposed system which is intended to be improved for both Landlords and Tenants. It is then expected that the law itself will change in late 2020 to early 2021. No doubt, the proposals will come with some objection from Landlords.
We provide advice to both Landlords and Tenants. If you are seeking advice as to the termination of a Tenancy, or for advice on Tenancies generally, our Dispute Resolution Team is experienced and able to assist.