A win for tenants?

By Rachel Norgate

In April 2019, the government announced that private landlords would no longer be allowed to evict their tenants at short notice, without good reasons to do so. They were effectively contemplating the abolishment of section 21 notices since this date.

In March 2023, the Minister of Housing and Planning indicated that the bill (Renters’ Reform Bill) is to be brought forward by the autumn of 2023.

Section 21 Housing Act 1988

Private landlords can currently serve a section 21 notice, which is more commonly referred to as a “no-fault” eviction notice. This can be served when the landlord and tenants have entered into an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

It enables landlords to be able to recover their properties, even in the absence of any fault from the tenant (no payment of rent for example).

This is in comparison to serving a section 8 notice, whereby the landlord would need to prove that the tenant has breached the terms of the tenancy agreement. Examples of a breach include:

  1. Rent arrears of at least 2 months,
  2. Breach of the tenancy agreement,
  3. Damage to the property.

Landlords are still required to give at least 2 months’ notice to their tenants (although a longer notice period may be required where the tenancy is a contractual periodic tenancy), but they need not set out a reason for bringing the tenancy to an end.

If after the serving of a Section 21 notice, the tenant still refuses to move out, the landlord can make an application to court for a possession order.

Provided that:

  1. The correct procedure has been followed, and
  2. The tenant has no defence,

The court will make an order for possession in favour of the landlord, usually within 14 days.

Proposed changes

The Bill proposes to simplify tenancy structures by transitioning all tenancies to periodic, which means that the tenancy will end only:

  1. If the tenant chooses to leave,
  2. If the landlord has grounds to seek possession, under section 8 of Housing Act 1988.

Section 21 would therefore no longer be required and would in effect be abolished.

What does this mean in practice?

This would mean that landlords will always need to provide their tenants with a reason for ending the tenancy.

However, it also means tenants will be able to choose to end the tenancy at any time, as long as they provide two months’ notice to the landlord.

After a tenant has lived in a property for six months, landlords will be able to evict a tenant under “reasonable” circumstances under section 8, which includes:

  1. Redevelopment,
  2. Wanting to sell the property,
  3. Allowing a close family member to move in to rent the property.

The ground for anti-social behaviour will also be strengthened, whereby the landlord can make a possession claim immediately, and the ground would cover behaviours capable of causing nuisance and annoyance.

Whilst the proposal has been in the works for some time, it is now coming closer to being put into effect. Tenants are expected to see this as a win going forward!

Friendly reminder that this article is not to be viewed as legal advice and is simply for educational purposes and to help keep practitioners up to date on the key legal framework.

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