Following the consultation in 2018 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on ‘Overcoming the Barriers to Longer Tenancies in the Private Rented Sector’, the Government has announced that it plans to repeal section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. The proposal seeks to address the uncertainty expressed by residential tenants in the consultation who rent under Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) in England.

Section 21 currently allows a landlord to evict a tenant under a fixed term AST without reason on or after the end of the term on not less than two months’ notice.The alternative, the section 8 procedure, requires that a landlord provides grounds for terminating the tenancy in the notice to the tenant. Since no grounds for termination need to be provided under section 21, landlords view this as a more attractive and swifter alternative to rely on when evicting tenants from properties let under ASTs.

The landlord’s ability to terminate an AST on no-fault grounds under section 21 was previously restricted by the introduction of a new section 21A. This section imposes prescribed legal requirements on a landlord to ensure that the section 21 notice is valid. The prescribed requirements include that the landlord must have provided the tenant with a gas safety certificate and an energy performance certificate free of charge before the AST was entered into. Landlords also have to ensure that a tenant’s deposit is protected in a deposit protection scheme. The removal of section 21 eviction process will go that step further in protecting faultless tenants from being evicted from their rented premises without being told the reason for their eviction.

In addition to the repeal of section 21, the Government intends to extend the grounds for termination under section 8 of the Act to enable a Landlord to end an AST if they plan to move into the property or sell the property with vacant possession. They also intend to make the court processes quicker and simpler to allow landlords to take possession more easily through the courts where the landlord is relying on one of the section 8 grounds.

The change is only a proposal at this stage, however it is the Government’s intention to carry out a consultation on the proposed new system and work with the courts and the Ministry of Justice to transform the court processes for possession.

There is no confirmation of when the consultation or repeal will happen, but under the new framework a landlord will always be required to provide grounds for termination when ending an AST. The change will make the eviction procedure more difficult for landlords, however it will provide more stability and certainty to tenants who rent property under ASTs. It should also prevent tenants from being unexpectedly evicted on short notice.

Although section 21 is expected to be repealed, landlords will still be able to serve an eviction notice under section 8 on any of the proposed new grounds or on the existing grounds under schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988.