Earlier this year, the Government announced its proposals to end “no fault evictions” by abolishing the right for landlord to serve notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. It launched a consultation “A New Deal for Renting: Resetting the balance of rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants” to obtain the views of landlords on its proposals. The consultation closes on 12 October 2019.
The Government supported its proposals by pointing to an imbalance between landlords and tenants in the private rented sector: tenants do not have certainty and should, they suggested, be given a fair reason before being asked to leave. The Government also suggested that the removal of section 21 will provide more stability in the sector. However, landlords have already expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposals. The Residential Landlords Association report on Possession Reform in the Private Rented Sector: Ensuring Landlord Confidence highlights that 96% of landlords consider the ability to use section 21 notices is vital to their lettings business. Some of those landlords are even considering stopping letting properties if the section 21 is abolished. Others have suggested that they will only let to certain types of tenants to manage business risk and this may result in fever properties being available.
Nevertheless, the Government stated that through changes to some of the existing grounds for possession, and the introduction of new ones, these concerns can be addressed. Some of the Government’s proposals include:
- Broadening Ground 1 of Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 to allow the landlord to obtain possession if he/she or a family member wished to move to the Property as their home and removing the requirement of having lived at the Property before. However, this could come with a restriction that the ground may only be used after 2 years.
- Introduction of a new Ground to obtain possession if the landlord wanted to sell the Property. Again, this ground could not be used within the first 2 years of the tenancy and may come with a long notice period.
- Amending Ground 8 of the Housing Act 1988 so that possession can be obtained if the tenant has rent arrears of one month or more at the time of the court hearing. If the arrears are less than one month at the hearing, then the ground would become discretionary. However, notice relying on this ground could only be served if the tenant had two months arrears.
- Amending Ground 13 to allow a landlord to obtain possession to maintain legal safety standards.
- Extending the accelerated possession procedure (which does not usually involve a court hearing) to other mandatory grounds. Currently this can only be used for claims based on section 21 notices.
These new and amended grounds would require landlords to provide evidence at court making it in some ways more complicated for the courts to deal with possession cases under the proposed new grounds than under section 21 notices. Some landlords have cautiously welcomed these changes but only if the changes are accompanied by the introduction of a separate ‘housing court’.
The consultation can be accessed through: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/52JFF5T and https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a-new-deal-for-renting-resetting-the-balance-of-rights-and-responsibilities-between-landlords-and-tenants.