Currently landlords can serve a notice to quit on tenants living under a residential assured shorthold tenancy (AST) with only two months notice and without having to rely on a set legal ground to do so.

This has long been a subject of debate – renters argue that they have no sense of security when living in a property, with even the most perfect tenants being left at the whim of their landlords, some becoming homeless if evicted with short notice and unable to find a new place to live. Landlords, on the other hand, have found it hard to evict tenants under section 8 of the Housing Act, claiming it’s not clear and simple enough, resulting in long-winded and expensive eviction processes, so they fall back and rely on section 21 as a way of ending tenancies.

After initially announcing its intention to abolish section 21 in April this year, the government gave further confirmation on 21 July, when it began a consultation to seek views on how best to implement the proposal. This move would effectively mean abolishing assured shorthold tenancies completely as the only distinguishing feature between an assured shorthold tenancy and a shorthold tenancy is section 21.

What is the government consultation looking for?

As part of the consultation around revoking section 21, the government are seeking opinions on the following:

  • The impact of abolishing assured shorthold tenancies and whether there are any circumstances where a landlord should be able to obtain possession where the tenant is not at fault.
  • Whether the proposals should apply to both private sector and social landlords, depending on the extent to which they use assured tenancies.
  • How the existing grounds for possession in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 should be amended or extended.
  • How applications for possession orders under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 could be processed more efficiently.

When does the consultation finish?

The consultation closes on 12 October 2019. If you would like to share your views, please contact Andrew Williamson or Louise Moore.

What would this change in law mean for renters and landlords?

Conversations around the power of landlords in the private rental market have long been around and, with the inability of many to afford their own homes, the private rental market has become a complex issue which has only grown with ‘generation rent’. This law change would mark a swing in favour of the renters, allowing more security and creating a genuine generational change in the way that the private rental market operates.

However, one of the main reasons for the resurgence in the private rented sector following the Housing Act 1988 and the Housing Act 1996, was the improved ability for a landlord to regain possession of their property easily, giving them confidence in the process. The suggested new requirement to prove a ground for possession on every termination may make some landlords more reluctant to let out their properties, therefore reducing the available supply and creating a knock-on effect of increasing rents.