Proposed Changes to s21 Notices in England
Last week the Government announced its intention to repeal section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and in so doing end 'no fault' evictions.
What are the proposals?
Whilst further details are awaited, last week's press release suggests that a new framework will be introduced, whereby a landlord will always have to provide a reason for ending the tenancy, essentially creating ASTs with an indefinite term that can only be determined by the landlord on the basis of a reformed section 8 'fault' process; or by tenants who will be able to choose to end the tenancy upon provision of sufficient notice.
In addition to the section 21 changes, the Government has also said that it intends to strengthen the existing section 8 'fault' process by allowing Landlords to rely on it if they want to sell the property or to occupy it themselves.
The Government has also reiterated its desire to speed up and simplify the Court process relating to possession to make it easier for landlords to regain possession.
When could the legislation change?
These are only proposals and it is likely to be some time before any changes come into effect. The Government will first consult on their plan and it has not yet been announced when such a consultation will begin nor how long it will last. After that, an Act of Parliament will be needed and it will take time before Royal Assent is granted.
It seems very unlikely that the existing legislation will change before late 2020 at the very earliest.
Will this affect existing tenancies?
Perhaps. Changes to tenancy law tend not to be retrospective, and the Government has certainly not indicated that it intends to make these changes retrospective, but Parliament does have the power to do this and has used this to bolster tenants’ rights in the past.
Will this change mean tenants can only be evicted when they have done something wrong?
No. Landlords can still rely on any of the Grounds for Possession in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 when serving a section 8 notice (which can be done at any time during a tenancy). Many of these grounds do not rely on the tenant being at fault, though these are relatively rarely used and must be proven in Court. As stated above, the Government is proposing to strengthen the section 8 grounds, meaning that the proposal may not really signal the abolition of ‘no fault eviction’ at all.
We await the launch of the consultation and will keep you updated as and when any further announcements on the subject are made.
Sarah is an associate in our Property Litigation team.