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Social housing speed read: No-fault evictions

In their 2019 manifesto the Conservative party pledged "a better deal for renters" and subsequently announced the Renters Reform Bill at the end of 2019.

This bill has not yet been introduced into Parliament to become law. On 16 June 2022 the white paper ‘A fairer private rented sector’ set out a plan to abolish no-fault eviction, and introduce a more secure tenancy structure.

Despite the current upheaval in changes of policy, the government continue to commit to the manifesto pledge of ending no-fault Section 21 evictions. In October the House of Commons Library published a research briefing looking at the impact of Section 21 and reactions to the proposed abolition.

What does it mean?

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 currently enables private and social housing landlords to repossess properties from assured shorthold tenants without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant. These ‘no-fault’ evictions allow landlords to regain possession of their property without having to give any reason for the eviction. Data published by the DLUHC shows a rapid increase in homelessness over the course of 2022 and it is hoped that the ban will cut these figures, providing individuals and families with security in their homes.

Section 21 enables a landlord to force a tenant to leave a property with two months’ notice after the initial six months has elapsed or any fixed term contract has ended. Once the Renters Reform Bill is passed landlords will need to provide legal reason for the eviction, which means tenants who have paid their rent on time and followed their contractual terms can’t be evicted when their contract comes to an end. Banning Section 21 notices is intended to give renters long-term certainty and protect against unfair evictions, but landlord groups have said the changes will make it more difficult to evict tenants who are at fault as they will need to rely on the more uncertain and costly process involved in Section 8 evictions.

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Social Landlords

The ban on Section 21 evictions will effectively end the ‘shorthold’ aspect of assured shorthold tenancies. The Government has stated that in the future all tenancies offered by Private Registered Providers (PRPs) will be periodic tenancies, which will be governed by new rules from the outset. The Government has confirmed that there will not be new mechanisms to create probationary, demoted or fixed-term tenancies for PRPs.

PRPs will need to rely on enhanced grounds for possession, such as anti-social behaviour, and rent-arrears to deal with challenging behaviour.

At present assured shorthold tenancies are often used in temporary and supported housing. In these circumstances the Government has promised new, specialist grounds for possession and a new mandatory ground to allow social landlords to evict tenants who no longer meet the criteria for key worker accommodation.

Section 8 notices

Private and Social landlords can give a Section 8 notice to end a tenancy where they have a legal reason for the eviction, or ‘grounds for possession’. These grounds include anti-social behaviour, serious rent arrears and where landlords wish to carry out substantial redevelopment.

The period of notice will differ depending on the reason for which the landlord is claiming possession, spanning from two weeks to two months. If the tenants do not leave by the specified date landlords can then apply to the court for a possession order. This method of eviction will remain available but can take significantly longer than a Section 21 notice, landlords will need to pay the costs associated with proceedings and tenants may be able to challenge the eviction.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has argued for a reformed and improved court system, together with improvements to the grounds of possession, to be introduced before Section 21 is amended or abolished. This has been mooted (and rejected) for many years and is unlikely to happen any time soon.  There are concerns that there is a risk of landlords leaving the sector, which could reduce access to housing for those who cannot afford to buy and who cannot access social rented housing.

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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