The Government recently announced it is looking at overhauling the laws surrounding evictions and tenancies. The focus of the proposals surround Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (commonly known as simply ‘Section 21’).
Section 21 gives landlords the ability to terminate a tenancy with 2 months’ notice, without giving a reason. This is often referred to as a ‘no-fault’ eviction (i.e. the eviction is not the ‘fault’ of the tenant) and is used if the landlord wishes to sell the property, move into the property themselves or for similar purposes that does not require the tenant to have breached their tenancy agreement.
The other method of evicting a tenant is to use Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (‘Section 8’). To use this section however, there must have been a breach of the tenancy agreement, such as non-payment of rent or damage caused to the property. A Landlord may, if they so wish, use both Section 8 and Section 21 together.
Landlords generally prefer Section 21 as it allows the use of so-called ‘accelerated possession’, in that following the expiry of the 2 month time limit, the landlord may submit a request to Court, along with the original notice, tenancy documents and the correct Court fee, requesting possession be granted. This is normally granted without a hearing, except in exceptional circumstances. This is in contrast to Section 8, which requires a hearing to take place and so will often take substantially longer for possession to be granted. However, Section 8 proceedings can allow the landlord to recover lost rent, rather than just be granted possession.
Section 21 is seen to be potentially open to abuse by some Private Landlords, who can use it to evict a tenant without there having necessarily been a breach of the tenancy agreement or as an act of revenge against a tenant who raises an issue with the property.
The Government appears keen to remove the use of Section 21, and instead focus on the use of Section 8 solely. This may well lead to private landlords being forced into long and costly legal battles if they wish to evict a tenant, and may lead to issues when selling houses, as the desire to sell the property is not currently grounds for possession under Section 8. However the Government has promised to strengthen the possession procedure under Section 8 to rectify this issue.
The Government has not provided a timetable for the reform, nor does it confirm what other reforms are being considered, just that this proposal is the ‘start of a longer process’. Hopefully these other proposals will provide private landlords with reassurance that they will not be forced through a disproportionately expensive process to evict a tenant, whilst providing tenants with the protection they require to prevent private landlords evicting them with little to no warning.
If you are a landlord or tenant and are having issues related to an ongoing tenancy, please contact James Crussell or another member of our Civil Litigation team on 01638 560556.