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Abolishing 'no fault evictions' - what we know so far.

Following recent news coverage we have received a number of enquiries from our residential landlord clients about the proposed abolition of Section 21 (S.21) and so called ‘no fault evictions’.

What is S.21?
The introduction of the Housing Act 1988 and its subsequent amendment by the Housing Act 1996 has meant that, subject to a number of exceptions, any new private sector residential tenancy in England and Wales is an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). Generally speaking S.21 Housing Act 1988 enables landlords to recover possession of the property from the tenant upon the expiration or termination of the AST by giving 2 months’ notice, referred to as a S.21 notice. If the tenant fails to vacate in accordance with the S.21 notice the landlord is able to apply to court and obtain an order for possession. No reason has to be given by the landlord in either the notice or the court proceedings and the tenant does not have to have done anything wrong for the landlord to evict the tenant, which is why some refer to this as ‘no fault eviction’. 

Why is S.21 popular with landlords?
S.21 enables landlords to recover possession through the courts relatively quickly in the knowledge that provided the paperwork is in order the Judge will have no discretion as to whether or not to order possession. The court procedure that can be used when relying on a S.21 notice is generally quicker and cheaper than if applying to court for another reason, such as the tenant being in rent arrears.

Why is S.21 unpopular with tenants?
ASTs are generally only for a short period of time, often 6 months or 12 months in duration. As landlords then only need to give 2 months’ notice tenants have very little security in their homes. Frequently having to move home is extremely disruptive and can be very expensive. Concerns have been raised that if a tenant makes a complaint, for example about the condition of the home, the landlord may simply evict the tenant rather than resolve the problem.

What is happening to S.21?
In 2019 the Government announced an intention to abolish S.21 Housing Act 1988, this then formed part of the Conservative party’s Manifesto for the December 2019 general election. Global events meant the government was focussing on other things but in June 2022 they published a Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper containing a 12 point plan of action which includes abolishing S.21 evictions. The main provisions are as follows:

  • Rather than a fixed term all ASTs will be periodic from the outset;
  • Tenants can terminate the tenancy by giving 2 months’ notice;
  • Landlords can only terminate on specified grounds, new grounds for possession will be introduced and current grounds are to be expanded to include:
    • A new ground for possession if landlords wish to sell or move into the property;
    • A new mandatory ground for possession where the tenant has been in at least 2 months’ arrears three times within the last three years;
    • Lower notice periods for criminal or serious anti-social behaviour.

The Government states that at least 6 months’ notice will be given before the law starts to apply to new tenancies, a second date will then be provided after which it will also apply to existing tenancies.

When will this happen?
The Government intends for this to be brought into law promptly, the Queens Speech confirmed a Renters’ Reform Bill will be introduced into Parliament in the 2022-2023 session, it will then take some time to go through Parliament before receiving Royal Assent, only then will we know the exact details of the new and updated grounds for possession. We will write a further article specifying the precise details when this is known.