Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants at short notice without good reason under new government plans. The change is intended to protect renters from “unethical” landlords and give them more long-term security.
At the moment Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict renters without a reason at the end of their fixed-term tenancy. Under the government's new plans, landlords would have to provide a “concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law” in order to bring tenancies to an end.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced similar plans for Wales, while in Scotland new rules requiring landlords to give a reason for ending tenancies were introduced in 2017. There are no plans in Northern Ireland to end no-fault evictions where a fixed-term tenancy has come to an end.
Housing reforms risk hurting tenants
However, landlords are warning of “serious dangers” to the supply of rental housing for vulnerable tenants as a result of these planned reforms to rental housing. David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said: “Whilst the RLA recognises the pressure being placed on Government for change, there are serious dangers of getting such reforms wrong. With the demand for private rented homes continuing to increase, we need the majority of good landlords to have confidence to invest in new homes. This means ensuring they can swiftly repossess properties for legitimate reasons such as rent arrears, tenant anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell them. This needs to happen before any moves are made to end Section 21.
“For all the talk of greater security for tenants, that will be nothing if the homes to rent are not there in the first place. We call on the government to act with caution.”
Government data shows that on average tenants live in their rental properties for over four years and that in 90% of cases tenancies are ended by the tenant rather than the landlord.
The RLA is warning that at a time when the demand for rental homes is outstripping supply, especially among vulnerable tenants, the Government risks exacerbating the problem if it does not ensure that landlords have complete confidence that they can repossess properties swiftly for legitimate reasons. These include tenant rent arrears, tenants committing anti-social behaviour and landlords wanting to sell their properties.
With the Government’s own data showing that it takes over five months from a private landlord applying to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening, the RLA argues that it is vital that a reformed and improved court system is able to bed-in and the grounds to repossess properties are properly improved before making changes to Section 21. This would follow the lead set in Scotland.
Research by Manchester Metropolitan University for the RLA found that in a large majority of cases where tenants are asked to leave their properties under Section 21 notices there is a clear reason. Half of the notices are used where tenants have rent arrears, are committing anti-social behaviour or damage to the property. Other common reasons include the landlord needing to take back possession of a property for sale or refurbishment. The report’s authors argue that this “raises questions” about whether the use of Section 21 notices can properly be described as ‘no fault’ evictions, as some have called them.
Onus on Government to avoid chaos in the courts - NLA
The National Landlords Association (NLA) has lambasted the Government’s proposal to remove Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, saying that it is essentially creating indefinite tenancies.
The NLA has long argued that Section 21 has become a backstop to overcome the ineffective Section 8 process, where a landlord has to go to court to regain possession when a tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement, because it is seen as slow, costly and inefficient.
Richard Lambert, CEO at the NLA, says: “Landlords currently have little choice but to use Section 21. They have no confidence in the ability or the capacity of the courts to deal with possession claims quickly and surely, regardless of the strength of the landlord’s case.
“England’s model of tenancy was always intended to operate in a sector where Section 21 exists. This change makes the fixed term meaningless, and so creates a new system of indefinite tenancies by the back door.
“The onus is on the Government to get this right. It’s entirely dependent on the Government’s ability to re-balance the system through Section 8 and court process so that it works for landlords and tenants alike. The Government should look to Scotland, where they reformed the court system before thinking about changing how tenancies work. If the Government introduces yet another piece of badly thought-out legislation, we guarantee there will be chaos.”