Social Housing Speed Read – Government consultation on the proposed repeal of s.21 of the Housing Act 1988 and the abolishment of assured shorthold tenancies
7th October, 2019
On 15 April 2019, the Government announced proposals to repeal s.21 of the Housing Act 1988 ("the Act") and enact a new provision to ensure that tenants cannot be evicted from their homes without good reason. At the same time, as a balance to the stronger rights that this would provide to tenants, the Government proposed reform to the s.8 possession procedure. This would allow a landlord, in certain circumstances, to obtain possession of their property should they wish to sell it or move into it themselves.
As a result, on 21 July 2019, a consultation (A new deal for renting: resetting the balance of rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants) was published in order to seek feedback on the Government’s proposals. However, this consultation also confirmed that the Government is proposing to abolish assured shorthold tenancies in conjunction with the repeal of s.21 of the Act. This is because the s.21 possession procedure is the only differentiation between assured shorthold tenancies and assured tenancies. If the s.21 procedure is no longer available, there is no longer a need for assured shorthold tenancies.
At present, s.21 allows a landlord to obtain an order for possession (in certain circumstances) without the need to rely on any grounds under the Act. If the tenancy is for a fixed term, the tenancy can be brought to an end after the expiry of that fixed term by the service of at least two months’ notice. If the tenancy is a periodic tenancy, the notice requirements vary depending on the reference period of that tenancy. Ultimately, s.21 allows for an assured shorthold tenancy to be brought to an end where the tenant is not at fault. The aforementioned proposals by the Government would prevent this and would ensure that tenants are only being evicted on grounds that are contained within the Act. As a result, the only procedure available for obtaining an order for possession would be the s.8 procedure.
Under s.8 of the Act, a landlord may obtain an order for possession at any time during the tenancy provided that one of the Grounds in Schedule 2 to the Act is satisfied. As this would be the only procedure available under the proposals, the Government has recognised that reform may be needed in order to strengthen the position of landlords. It has suggested that ground one could be amended to allow possession if a family member wishes to use the property as their home. The requirement for a landlord (or their spouse or civil partner) to have lived in the property previously would also be abolished. Furthermore, a new ground is proposed that would allow a landlord to obtain possession for the purposes of selling the property with vacant possession. Both of these grounds would require notice at the start of the tenancy if it is a possibility that the landlord may rely on them. It is also suggested that in relation to a fixed term tenancy, these grounds could only be relied on if two years have elapsed since the first tenancy agreement was signed.
The consultation also seeks feedback on a number of the other grounds contained in the Act and, of particular significance to many social housing providers, proposals to make it easier for landlords to seek possession following anti-social behaviour.
A copy of the consultation can be found here should you wish to provide feedback on any of the proposals. The consultation will close at 11:45pm on 12 October 2019.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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