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Government Publishes Section 21 Consultation

Signing Property Documents

Earlier this year, the Government announced that it was outlining plans to abolish ‘no-fault evictions’ permitted under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 in England. Under the current law in England, landlords can evict tenants (giving them eight weeks’ notice) at any time after the fixed-term contract has come to an end, without specifying a reason. This procedure is known as a s21 eviction procedure.

The Government has now published its consultation which can be found here. This is an open consultation and views are invited from any interested parties. Responses can be submitted online or by post. Further details of the consultation and how to respond are addressed in the consultation.  The consultation closes on 12 October 2019. The consultation considers proposals for England only.

The Government has reaffirmed its commitment to repealing Section 21 to make the rental market fairer and more secure for tenants, as more people turn to rented accommodation in the private rented sector.

The abolition of Section 21 will mean that landlords will only be able to evict tenants under the Section 8 eviction procedure to obtain possession of their property. The Section 8 eviction procedure can only be used if certain statutory grounds (set out in the Housing Act 1988) are proved, such as non-payment of rent or anti-social behaviour.

This consultation therefore considers what improvements need to be made to possession proceedings through the court, and to the existing Section 8 eviction procedure to make it more efficient.

The Government want to speed up the court process and hope that this can be achieved by introducing an online system.

The consultation discusses a range of changes to the statutory grounds for evicting tenants under the Section 8 eviction procedure. These include:

  • Widening the current ground for possession for re-occupation by the landlord, to also apply if a family member wishes to use the property as their home, however, notice would need to be given at the beginning of the tenancy that the landlord may want to rely on this ground, and it could not be relied upon during the first two years of a fixed term;
  • Adding a new ground for possession for sale (again, notice would need to be given at the beginning of the tenancy that the landlord may want to rely on this ground, and it could not be relied upon during the first two years of a fixed term); and
  • Amending the ground for possession for rent arrears, which would permit the landlord to serve a two-week notice seeking possession once the tenant has accrued two months of rent arrears.

If the proposals set out in the consultation become law, the effect will be that assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) will be abolished and all future tenancies will be assured tenancies (which can only be terminated by the landlord if they gain possession through the courts).  This is because once Section 21 is abolished, there will be little to distinguish ASTs from assured tenancies.

Landlords are concerned that these proposals will make it harder to evict tenants. Landlords may stop renting out their properties altogether or be more selective about who they let their property to. This is likely to decrease the supply of rented properties and increase rents.

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