Proposed Changes to Residential Evictions – “A Game Changer”
The end of ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions – what you need to know
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 enables landlords to give their tenants notice of eviction without having to establish any reason or fault on the tenant’s part. The Notice will give an expiry date – effectively the termination date for the tenancy – which will generally be two months after the date of service. In the event that the tenant does not leave on the termination date in the notice, it is possible to obtain an order for possession without the need for a hearing.
The government has committed to abolishing this practice to provide more security for tenants.
The end of the Section 21 era may indeed mean that tenants are afforded an extra layer of protection from eviction at the discretion of the landlord, however, landlords will then be left with fewer avenues for bringing the tenancy to an end whereby there has been no breach of contract by the tenant. For tenancy agreements commencing after 1 December 2017, ‘no-fault’ evictions have already been abolished in Scotland and the Welsh Government are considering an extension to their notice period to afford their tenants extra shielding.
The Renters Reform Bill – a White Paper entitled ‘a fair private rented sector’
Changes to the 1988 Act, first proposed in April 2019, will involve the abolition of the ‘no-fault’ evictions as well as creating an entirely new framework for the repossession of residential property. In response to a 2018 consultation on, ‘overcoming the barrier to longer tenancies in the private rented sector’, the Government found that tenants were unable to plan due to a landlord’s ability to terminate the tenancy at short notice. The Government also concluded that this power has a detrimental impact on children’s education and tenant overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Most residential tenancies will be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) with an initial fixed term of at least 6 months. Once the fixed term expires, the tenancy can be renewed or it will become what is called periodic. At this point, a Section 21 notice may be served on the tenant. The Government proposes for all tenancies to be periodic with a break clause included to allow for early termination of the agreement.
The white paper outlines proposals for a simpler, more secure tenancy structure – a tenancy will only end if the tenant chooses to end it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession. The grounds for possession will be reformed to ensure landlords have effective means to gain possession of their properties when necessary. The Government has indicated that new grounds will be created to enable landlords to sell or move close family members into the property, for example. Grounds concerning persistent late payments of rent and anti-social behaviour have also been proposed to be strengthened.
Reactions to the proposed abolition
As expected, there’s a divide in opinion between those advocating on behalf of the landlord and those advocating on behalf of the tenant.
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, described the white paper as “a game changer” in respect of private rented property.
Currently, the only alternative for landlords is a Section 8 ‘fault-based eviction’, which requires a landlord to prove breaches on behalf of the tenant which entitle the landlord to take back possession. In the event that the tenant does not leave on the termination date, the landlord must pursue a full possession claim in court, including a court hearing, which can take up to a year given the current court backlogs following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The National Residential Landlords Association suggest, before the Section 21 route is amended or abolished, a reformed and refined court system should be introduced which has bedded-in improvements to the grounds for possession. Landlord organisations contend there is a risk of landlords leaving the housing sector altogether which consequently may reduce access to housing for those who cannot afford to buy and those who cannot access social rented housing.
Keelys LLP – Our Services
Here at Keelys we have a team of experienced litigation solicitors who are here to help provide you will all legal advice and support in relation to residential evictions – whether you are the landlord or the tenant.
We offer fixed fee Section 21 claims as laid out below:-
- £100 plus VAT to review your initial documentation and to provide you with advice on the next steps
- £150 plus VAT to draft and serve notice
- £350 plus VAT to commence court proceedings (plus a court issue fee of £355 no VAT applicable)
In the short term, it is vital for landlords to take action in respect of any tenancies where they know they will require vacant possession within a definite timeframe. We thus urge all landlords who are considering reclaiming their properties not to delay in taking action now to avoid ending up on the back foot once these proposals come into force!
For further information and/ or to discuss the position in further detail, please contact our Patrick Farrington at firstname.lastname@example.org.