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The End of ‘No Fault’ Section 21 Evictions

Posted on July 21st, 2021

All information from gov.uk; The end of ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions – House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)

The Government has committed to abolish ‘no-fault’ section 21 evictions in the private rented sector. A Renters’ Reform Bill was promised in the 2019 Queen’s Speech to achieve this. The Bill is awaited. This paper explains the use of section 21 and reactions to its proposed abolition.

2019 consultation on the abolition of section 21

On 15 April 2019, the then-Government announced: “Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason.” This was followed by a consultation process in July 2019, with submissions accepted up to 12 October 2019.

The consultation paper proposed the abolition of section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Section 21 enables private landlords to repossess their properties from assured shorthold tenants without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant. Hence it is sometimes referred to as the ‘no-fault’ ground for eviction.

In addition to abolishing section 21, the consultation paper proposed measures to strengthen and extend the Grounds for possession which are preceded by the service of a section 8 notice, particularly where the property is needed for the landlord’s or a family member’s use, and if the landlord wants to sell. Responses to the consultation exercise are being analysed by the Government.

The Conservative Manifesto and proposed Renter’s Reform Bill

The manifesto included the following commitment:

We will bring in a Better Deal for Renters, including abolishing ‘no-fault’ evictions and only requiring one ‘lifetime’ deposit which moves with the tenant. This will create a fairer rental market: if you’re a tenant, you will be protected from revenge evictions and rogue landlords, and if you’re one of the many good landlords, we will strengthen your rights of possession.

The 2019 Queen’s Speech said a Renters’ Reform Bill would be introduced:

A Renters’ Reform Bill will enhance renters’ security and improve protections for short-term tenants by abolishing “no-fault” evictions and introducing a lifetime deposit.

To date, the Bill has not been introduced. Various bodies, including the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, have called for the Bill to be fast-tracked to improve protection for tenants affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. There is concern that tenants in financial difficulty who have benefited from temporary restrictions on landlords’ ability to seek repossession, will face homelessness when restrictions are relaxed. The Government has been pressed on timing. In response to the Committee’s interim report on protecting rough sleepers and renters in June 2020, it said:

The Government remains committed to bringing forward legislation to deliver its planned reforms to enhance renters’ security, including by abolishing so-called ‘no-fault’ evictions. However, the proposals for tenancy reform would represent the largest change to renting in 30 years and it is only right that these reforms are taken forward in a considered manner.

On 3 March 2021 the Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher, confirmed the Renters’ Reform Bill will be brought forward “once the urgencies of responding to the pandemic have passed.”

Why abolish section 21?

Private tenants, their representative bodies, and others working in the sector have long argued that the ability of landlords to terminate an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) at short notice has a detrimental effect on tenants’ wellbeing. Research has highlighted evidence of tenants being reluctant to exercise their rights to secure repairs and/or challenge rent increases due to the ease with which landlords can evict them. Respondents to a 2018 consultation on, ‘overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector’, said:

…those renting from private landlords have been left feeling insecure by short fixed-term tenancies, unable to plan for the future or call where they live a home. This insecurity can have wide-ranging effects – from disrupting children’s education and the impact on mental health through to the cost of frequent moves undermining people’s ability to save for a deposit.

Reactions to the proposed abolition of section 21

There is a clear divide in opinion between organisations advocating on behalf of tenants and those advocating on behalf of private landlords. Broadly, tenant organisations support the abolition of section 21 while landlord bodies oppose it.

The National Residential Landlords Association argues that a reformed and improved court system which has bedded-in, together with improvements to the Grounds for possession, should be introduced before section 21 is amended or abolished. Landlord organisations argue there is a risk of landlords leaving the sector, which could reduce the amount of housing available for people who cannot afford to buy and who cannot access social rented housing.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Scotland legislated to abolish no-fault evictions in respect of tenancies created on or after 1 December 2017. Research into the impact of these changes published by Shelter, a strong proponent of abolition, argues that some of the ‘scare’ stories in England on the potential impact of section 21’s abolition are misplaced.

The Senedd has also legislated to introduce minimum notice periods of six months for tenants in the private rented sector with a standard contract. These provisions are expected to come into force in 2022.

In Northern Ireland, tenancies created after 1 April 2007 are generally ‘non-protected’. If a landlord wishes to end a non-protected tenancy on a no-fault basis, the length of the notice depends on how long the tenant has lived in the property.

The full report can be read here; The end of ‘no-fault’ section 21 evictions (England) (parliament.uk)

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