It has been widely reported this week that the government will be ending the current ‘no fault’ eviction regime, which enables landlords to give residential tenants two months’ notice to end their tenancy agreement under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. The move is designed to give tenants more security and stop ‘retaliatory’ evictions (where landlords end a tenancy after the tenant complains about disrepair).
Currently, landlords can use either the section 21 procedure or the section 8 procedure to regain possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy. Section 21 is only available at or after the end of the initial fixed term of a tenancy, but no reason is required. As long as the notice has been served correctly, the court has no discretion and a possession order must be granted.
Section 8 can be used during or after expiry of the fixed term of the tenancy, but most grounds require some fault on the part of the tenant, for example the tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement, has rent arrears, or is guilty of anti-social behaviour. Some section 8 grounds are also discretionary, meaning that even if the ground is made out, the court will only make a possession order if it is reasonable to do so.
Where tenants do not leave voluntarily on expiry of a notice, landlords can currently use the accelerated court procedure when relying on a section 21 notice, which enables a possession order to be made on paper, without the need for a court hearing. This is much quicker and cheaper than traditional possession proceedings. The accelerated procedure is not available for proceedings based on section 8 notices.
The government has stated that as well as abolishing the section 21 regime, the section 8 regime will be reviewed, to ensure that landlords who have a legitimate reason to end a tenancy will be able to do so “swiftly and smoothly”. However, the plans are still very much at an early stage, and landlords will no doubt be concerned that it is going to become much harder and more expensive to evict problem tenants.
The government has not yet announced a timetable for the plans, so section 21 notices will remain valid for the time being. Any landlords who are considering regaining possession, for example before selling a property, may wish to proceed with this sooner rather than later.