In what is described as ‘a generational change’ to the lettings sector, Section 21 evictions, known as no fault evictions, will be abolished under plans to be put out to consultation.
The announcement came with no warning and despite considerable pressure from landlord organisations following last year’s consultation on longer tenancies who said that the move could be ‘devastating’ for the private rented sector. It looked for a while last year as if the government would back away from such a radical step.
Evidence has been mounting that Section 21 evictions are the single biggest cause of homelessness in England, with the number of cases more than trebling from 4,580 to 16,320 between 2009 and 2017.
The move also forms part of an effort to redress the balance between tenant and landlord. Rights for tenants to remain in a property were reduced in the 1988 Housing Act, which included Section 21, and tipped the power relationship in favour of the landlord.
To address landlords concerns about being able to end tenancies where they have legitimate reason to do so, plans include strengthening the Section 8 possession process and reforming the route to court. These will be in addition to the existing grounds which allow landlords to evict tenants who don’t pay the rent or commit anti-social behaviour.
Reaction to the announcement was welcomed as long overdue by tenant organisations but may be the final straw for some private landlords with the National Landlords Association warning that if this is not thought out in a way that provides balances for both sides “we guarantee there will be chaos.”
This announcement is the start of a longer process to introduce these reforms. Consultation on the details of the system will be launched ‘shortly’ but it is not known when this will take place.
A consultation ‘shortly’ followed by the need for legislation implies the change is unlikely to happen this year.
There is much detail still be settled. The government has said it will be collaborating with landlords, tenants and others in the private rented sector to develop a ‘new deal for renting’. Ministers have also said they will work with other housing providers outside of the private rented sector who use these powers and use the consultation to make sure the new system works effectively.