There has been widespread coverage of the government’s recently announced proposals to abolish ‘no-fault’ evictions. The aim of this proposal is to increase security for tenants by creating open-ended tenancies.
As things stand, once the fixed term of the tenancy has ended, the law allows a landlord to evict a tenant by simply giving two months’ notice. This happens by serving the tenant with a ’Section 21 Notice’ (which refers to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988). The landlord does not have to provide any reasons for terminating the tenancy. It is widely recognised as a flexible and convenient remedy for a landlord.
What is proposed?
Put simply, the government proposes to abolish Section 21. This will mean that in order to gain possession, landlords will have to serve a ‘Section 8 Notice’ and prove one of the alternative grounds set out in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988.
Those include (but are not limited to):
- unpaid rent;
- any breach of the tenant’s obligations;
- causing a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours;
- the landlord previously lived in the property and wishes to live there again.
The drawbacks of this process for landlords are:
- The eviction process can take several months, as you cannot use the ‘accelerated possession procedure’;
- It is costly in terms of legal fees- there will be a court hearing;
- There is often no guarantee of possession at the end. If the claim is based on default by the tenant, who remedies the problem along the way, the court may decline to make a possession order.
Doom for landlords?
At first glance the abolition of Section 21 may seem like doom for landlords. Certainly, it spells an end to (relatively) swift and cheap eviction. However the government has assured landlords that they will still be able to end tenancies when they have a legitimate reason, including amending Section 8 to allow eviction if selling the property. They will also be entitled to increase the rent on an annual basis.
The government has provided assurances that in conjunction with the abolition of Section 21, they will also legislate to speed up the Section 8 eviction process. However, one reason that the Section 8 process can take so long is a lack of resources in the Court Service. The only way around that is for the government to plough more money into a service where for many years now they have been drastically cutting resources.
Ultimately, the abolition of Section 21 is bound to result in landlords being far more cautious in choosing a tenant. Poorer tenants and those who for a variety of reasons may be deemed less than suitable, will find it far harder to rent a home.