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Renters Reform Bill – First Impressions

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The Government in 2019 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’). This was followed by a consultation that ran between July and October 2019, which proposed the abolition of 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.

In June 2022 the Government published a white paper setting out a 12-point action plan to deliver a ‘fairer … private rented sector’. This was followed by the Renters Reform Bill, which was introduced on 17 May 2023 and is currently going through Parliament. This Bill proposes sweeping changes to the private rental market, including making all tenancies periodic tenancies, increasing the notice period for rent changes, and establishing a new Ombudsman for the private rental sector.

Alongside these changes are the proposals to abolish Section 21 and require landlords to only evict a tenant under reasonable circumstances. To assist landlords in this endeavour, the Government is proposing to strengthen the grounds allowed under Section 8, including a route for eviction for when the landlord is looking to sell the property, or needs the property for an employee.

The Government has also strengthened the rules around evictions for rent arrears. There is a proposed mandatory ground for eviction for tenants with repeated rent arrears, whether or not the amount remains unpaid at the time of the possession hearing.

The proposed Bill is still very much in the early stages of the Parliamentary process, and much may be changed before the Bill becomes Law. However, these changes are looking to be a dramatic change to the private rental market affecting more than simply the eviction process.

Both private landlords and tenants will be well advised to be aware of the changes that are on the horizon, to avoid falling foul of the amendments, or to avoid improper action being taken, accidentally or deliberately.

Article written by James Crussell.

If you are a landlord or tenant and are having issues related to an ongoing tenancy, please contact our office by email or give us a call on 01638 560556.

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