Evicting tenants by way of section 21 Notices could be abolished in England under the Renters’ Reform Bill, making it harder for landlords to evict tenants without good reason.
In July 2019, the Government published a consultation titled ‘A New Deal for Renting’. It suggested ways of tackling the housing crisis, improving tenant security, and equalising the balance of power between tenants and landlords.
The proposals outlined in the consultation, which closed in October 2019, lay the foundations for the Renters’ Reform Bill. This new piece of legislation was announced in the Queen’s speech during the state opening of Parliament on 19 December 2019.
At present, the Bill is working its way through Parliament. No one can be certain what the new laws will look like, or when they will come into force. However, it seems likely that Section 21 Notices will be abolished for Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs).
The Renters’ Reform Bill could represent a significant shift in the way landlords regain possession of rental properties. You can only evict someone from their home with a court order. Currently, a landlord has two ways of getting such an order.
Either, a Section 21 Notice can be issued. The landlord does not need to give a reason for taking possession of the property, they just have to give the tenant two month’s notice. If the tenant does not move out in this time, the landlord can apply for an order that the tenant should be evicted. The court will make this order provided that all the procedural steps have been complied with properly and all the legal requirements are in place for the tenancy. The court will grant the order on the basis of the forms without needing a hearing. This is often the preferred option for landlords, as it avoids the need for a day in court (unless, of course, the tenant claims that the landlord has not complied with the process properly).
Alternatively, a Section 8 Notice can be issued – but only if a landlord can prove that the tenant is at fault in one of the ways set out in law. For example, if the tenant is in substantial rent arrears, or is persistently late with rent, the landlord can seek an order for the tenant to leave the property. Landlords are often reluctant to take this course of action, as there will always be a court hearing. The tenant will usually issue a counter-claim saying that the landlord has been remiss in their obligations and there will then have to be evidence and a trial with evidence from both sides to determine whether the tenant should be evicted. The costs of this can run to thousands of pounds.
If Section 21 Notices were to be abolished, it would bring an end to ‘no fault’ evictions. Going forward, a landlord would have to rely on Section 8 Notices, and could only evict a tenant with good reason. This might include if:
- The tenant is in rent arrears
- The tenant has breached the terms of their Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement
- The tenant has damaged the property or furniture or fittings in the property
- The landlord wishes to live in the property
Once the tenant was in, the landlord would not be allowed to evict the tenant for commercial reasons. For instance, a tenant could not be evicted because the landlord wants to increase the rent.
Nevertheless, the proposals indicate that annual rent reviews will be permitted. However, it has been suggested that tenants will be able to challenge rent increases, if it does not reflect market rates.
Similar legal changes are set to take effect in Wales.
Expert legal advice for landlords
It remains to be seen what the exact wording of the legislation will be, and when it will be implemented. Despite the uncertainty, we advise all landlords to carry out due diligence on their prospective tenants. In particular, always ensure that all requirements to provide notices and information to tenants at the beginning of the tenancy and protect the tenant’s deposit are complied with. This advice is particularly pertinent if Section 21 Notices are terminated. Otherwise, you might find it difficult to evict a problem tenant later down the line.
If you do need help evicting a tenant, please contact us straightaway. if the rules do change, it will be vital that you put together a strong case for the repossession of your property, and comply with the rules and regulations. If you fail to do so, the eviction could fail, and you could face a claim from the tenant for their costs.