The Government has announced plans to consult on new legislation which will radically change the ability of private landlords to evict tenants at the end of the fixed-term of their tenancies.
Currently, landlords are able to serve notice pursuant to section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to terminate tenancies, so long as the tenant has received at least two months’ written notice that the landlord requires possession, and the fixed-term has ended.
If the procedure is followed correctly, the court may award the landlord possession of the property without a hearing. Section 21 notices are commonly described as “no-fault evictions” because there is no requirement for the tenant to have done anything wrong (eg. failure to pay rent or allowing the property to fall into disrepair).
This is in contrast to section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, which allows in certain circumstances for the landlord to serve notice and evict the tenant during the course of the tenancy, where the tenant is in breach of the tenancy.
The Government’s aim is to ensure that “private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason”.
Under the proposals, landlords will have to provide a concrete, evidenced reason, albeit it is not clear at this stage how this process will be formulated. Assumingly landlords will need to rely exclusively on the section 8 eviction procedure, which may be strengthened to allow landlords to regain their home should they wish to sell it or move into it, which is not currently the case.
The government hopes these reforms will ensure “.. every single person living in the private rented sector will be empowered to make the right housing choice for themselves – not have it made for them. And this will be balanced by ensuring responsible landlords can get their property back where they have proper reason to do so.”
It is clear the Government considers the current system to be open to abuse by landlords, such as in cases of “retaliatory evictions”. A survey of 2,001 private renters by Citizens Advice suggests that tenants who made a formal complaint to their landlord regarding their tenancy had a 46% chance of being evicted within the next six months.
I previously explored the conflicting views attributed to the interests of landlords and tenants in my earlier article on the proposed new Housing Court, which forms part of Government’s proposed sweeping changes to the private rented sector.
Here, the National Landlords Association’s chief executive, Richard Lambert has reiterated his concerns about the court system, stating that many landlords are forced to use Section 21 as they have “no confidence” in the courts to deal with Section 8 applications “quickly and surely“. He said the proposed changes would create a new system of indefinite tenancies by the “back door“, and the focus should be on improving the Section 8 and court process instead.
Only time will tell how the Government implements these proposals, both in respect of amending eviction laws, and the appropriate court to determine any disputes arising as a result. Not until then will it become clear whether the Government’s policy to try and give tenants long-term certainty (and the extent in which this affects landlords) will be realised.
 A section 21 notice cannot be served until the landlord has complied with certain legal obligations relating, for instance, to gas safety and energy performance certificates, in addition to providing certain prescribed information.
 If a claim is made under the accelerated procedure and all legal requirements are satisfied.