Social Housing Speed Read: Open consultation on upcoming changes to S.21 and homelessness
5th January, 2023
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published a technical consultation on consequential changes to the homelessness legislation on 7 December 2022 which will close on 25 January 2023.
The consultation seeks views on the consequential amendments to homelessness legislation as a result of the Renters Reform Bill, namely, the removal of section 21 evictions, assured shorthold tenancies and fixed-term tenancies.
The consultation aims to identify the impacts the changes will have on the housing sector, to help ensure that local authorities can continue to deliver their homelessness duties effectively and give people the support they need.
In July 2019 the government published, ‘A new deal for renting’ consultation to seek views on how to implement the government’s decision to abolish section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and strengthen the grounds for possession in section 8 of the same Act.
The government then published the ‘Fairer Private Rented Sector’ white paper in June 2022, re-affirming the commitment to put an end to so called ‘no-fault’ evictions by revoking section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, and to transition away from assured shorthold and fixed term tenancies towards assured tenancies.
One of the features of the assured shorthold tenancy regime is the ability of landlords to end the tenancy without needing to give a reason, by issuing a two-month notice under section 21. The government is of the view that, with section 21 removed, the assured shorthold regime no longer serves a practical purpose, and therefore going forward, assured tenancies will be the preference.
Currently, assured shorthold tenancies can either have a fixed term or be periodic. While this appears more flexible, the consultation showed that many tenants and landlords find this system complex and that fixed terms lock tenants in. The White Paper therefore proposes that all tenancies will be periodic, giving both parties more flexibility to end the tenancy.
Under the new framework, which we have discussed in a previous article which can be reviewed by clicking here, a tenant will not be able to be evicted from their home without good reason. The government will ensure the grounds for possession are comprehensive and fair, so landlords are able to regain their property when it is appropriate for them to do so. The proposals include introducing a new ground for when the landlord plans on selling and also extending the existing moving in ground to apply to the landlord’s family.
Impacts on the homelessness legislation to be aware of
The majority of changes proposed are minor amendments to remove references to ‘section 21 notices’ and replace the references to ‘assured shorthold tenancies’ and ‘fixed-term tenancies’ with ‘assured tenancies’.
There are two parts of the Housing Act 1996 legislation where the removal of section 21 notices will have a larger impact on how the policy operates.
- The ‘threatened with homelessness definition’ in Part 7, section.175; and
- ‘The ending the prevention duty’ in Part 7, section.195(6).
The Government is considering changes to these parts of the legislation together to ensure the two are aligned. Currently, if a local authority accepts the prevention duty under certain circumstances, they are then unable to end the duty if those circumstances still stand. There are three proposed options for how to change these parts of the legislation, which can reviewed in further detail here.
The Government has sought to uphold the principles of the ‘Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper’ to give renters flexibility, stability and security, while ensuring landlords can regain possession of their property when required. However, the removal of section 21 notices from the homelessness legislation will have significant impact on tenants as well as local practice and resourcing within local authorities. Therefore, the Government is seeking views through this consultation to make sure the impacts are properly considered.
For further updates and information regarding the consultation please refer to the Gov.uk website.
If you have any questions about this topic please get in touch with Melanie Dirom.
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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