The government will begin to wind down emergency measures to support renters during the pandemic as its long-term plans to improve tenants’ rights received a cool response.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government today announced a phased approach to eviction notice periods, which had been extended to six months as a Covid-related emergency measure. Notice periods will be set at four months from 1 June and return to pre-pandemic levels from 1 October. More serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse, will continue to have shorter notice periods.
The announcement comes a day after the government revealed in a Queen's speech briefing document that it will publish a white paper this autumn on renters’ reforms. These could include abolishing section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, which the government consulted on in 2019.
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 enables private landlords to repossess their properties from assured shorthold tenants without having to establish fault on the part of the tenant.
The Housing Law Practitioners Association (HLPA) said the government’s thinking was the wrong way round.
‘The reason that no-fault eviction is problematic is because of market failure with unaffordable rents, a massively overheated demand for accommodation and what has been a disastrous diminution of social housing over decades forcing households into unstable short-term accommodation when they would rather be in long-term stable housing,' the association said.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said the reforms must include comprehensive grounds for landlords to legitimately repossess properties.
John Stephenson, residential property partner at BDB Pitmans, said: ‘Buy-to-let landlords, mortgage lenders and estate agents alike will be nervously awaiting the government’s response to the consultation on abolishing “no fault” termination of tenancies. For many this will bring back the spectre of the old Rent Acts, which by giving security of tenure and regulating rents dramatically reduced the availability of private rental properties, which ceased to be attractive investments as landlords and lenders would be unable to obtain vacant possession.'
Under the reforms, landlords would be required to belong to a redress scheme. The government would also 'explore improvements and possible efficiencies' to the possession process in courts.
HLPA said the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act abolished legal aid for compensatory redress if landlords did not do repairs and the government should simply reverse its cuts.