Landlords will be banned from evicting tenants without giving a proper reason under proposed reforms for a ‘fairer’ private rented sector.
In a white paper published today, the government said it would abolish section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. Just over a fifth of private tenants who moved from privately rented accommodation between 2019 and 2020 did not choose to end their tenancy, including 8% who were asked to leave by their landlord.
‘The lack of security makes it difficult for tenants to challenge poor practice or save for a home of their own,’ states the document, which includes a case study about a family who received a section 21 notice in November 2021 without any explanation.
Tenants who would previously have had an assured tenancy or assured shorthold tenancy will be moved on to a single system of periodic tenancies. Tenants would need to provide two months’ notice when leaving a tenancy. Landlords would only be able to evict a tenant in reasonable circumstances, which will be defined in law.
The government will also reform grounds for possession, saying the system must also work for responsible landlords, letting agents and communities. New grounds will be introduced for landlords wishing to sell their property and a mandatory ground for serious repeated rent arrears.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce welcomed the section 21 ban but said Chancery Lane would be glad to see so-called ‘retaliatory evictions’ made more difficult.
According to homelessness charity Shelter, nearly 230,000 private renters have seen serviced with a section 21 notice since the government first pledged to scrap this particular form of eviction in April 2019.
Boyce said: ‘There needs to be a balance between the rights of tenants and landlords. We’ve previously recommended widening Section 8, which enables a landlord to regain their property in some circumstances. Careful calibration is needed to improve security of tenure while ensuring landlords are not disincentivised from entering into longer-term fixed tenancies.’
Boyce also highlighted the need for equal access to justice: ‘Legal aid may be available to tenants but even families on low incomes may not be financially eligible for it, and in many parts of the country it is increasingly difficult to find a legal aid solicitor for housing issues.’
According to Law Society heatmaps, almost 41% of people in England and Wales do not have a housing legal aid provider in their local authority area.
The government has been warned that plans to extend the fixed recoverable costs regime to housing cases could lead to firms and not-for-profit organisations closing their housing departments.