Government Proposals To Ban No-Fault Evictions In England

The Government have announced that it is their intention to repeal evictions of private tenants using a procedure under Section 21 of The Housing Act 1988, often referred to as “no-fault evictions”. The reason they are referred to in that way is that a landlord is currently entitled to rely on this statutory provision often also using a special fast track procedure known as Accelerated Possession to evict tenants who have not broken the terms of their tenancy.

A Notice under Section 21 requires a landlord to give the tenant 2 months notice, but that notice can be timed to tie in with the end of the fixed period of the tenancy and if the tenancy runs on after the end of any fixed period the 2 months notice can be served at any time without warning to tenants. It is said that this can cause huge misery for tenants who are settled and who do not want to move and can be abused by landlords who serve these notices in retaliation against tenants who complain about disrepairs.

Whether this is good news or disastrous news obviously depends upon your perspective and there are undoubtedly good tenants and bad tenants just as there are good landlords and bad landlords. In my experience however most landlords are very happy to leave a tenant in occupation if they are paying the rent and looking after the property. It is generally disruptive for landlords to evict tenants because they risk having a property empty which will be costly to them particularly if they have a mortgage on the property and they are likely to incur further costs in re-letting it.

It is also true that the current system for obtaining possession is in need of reform and if the use of Section 21 and Accelerated Possession procedure is to be banned then landlords will have a much more difficult expensive and longer process to go through to recover possession. If the purpose of possession proceedings based on Section 21 is simply to get rid of a tenant who is viewed as a nuisance because they complain, most people will have very little sympathy with landlord. If the reason is because the tenant has fallen into arrears it can cause serious financial hardship to landlords if the shorter process available to them via Section 21 is removed. The alternative is, service of a Section 8 Notice and Court proceedings which, are easier to defend and because they require a Court hearing take longer and cost a lot more money.

Over the last few years many landlords who had acquired portfolios of residential property for letting have been slowly selling off those properties because of the changes in the tax position. I fear that anything which makes it more difficult for a landlord to remove a tenant will have a similar effect and certainly any attempt to force landlords into longer term tenancies will meet with serious resistance. It may also meet with resistance from lenders and a reduction in the availability of buy-to-let mortgages both of which will lead to a shrinking of the residential letting market.

It is also the case that some tenants often approach landlords to serve them with a notice based on Section 21 and to evict them in the hope that this will improve their chances of getting rehoused in social housing where they will have security and enjoy a cheaper rent. Local Authorities will not consider rehousing someone who voluntarily leaves the privately rented sector as they will be viewed as intentionally homeless. In some instances landlords are forced into taking such action and incurring costs because of this quite artificial situation, which is a reflection of the lack of social housing.

All of this makes for a good headline but the information published by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government has not set any timetable for this reform  and it is not likely to be the most urgent thing which the Government presently have to deal with.