Private landlords beware of future changes to Section 21 as the Government confirmed its intentions to repeal Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 in the May 2021 Queen’s Speech. This was originally set out in the Renters’ Reform Bill in early 2019. The Bill is said to abolish Section 21 putting an end to the non-fault evictions. The government will publish a white paper on all the proposals in the Renters’ Reform Bill in 2022.
Within the article we will explain the current notices available to private landlords in evicting their tenants and the proposed changes to Section 21.
What is a Section 21 notice?
In essence, a private landlord has two statutory procedures open to them in evicting their tenants from their property.
- Serving a Section 21 notice
- Serving a Section 8 notice, which must list one of the 17 statutory grounds
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 lets the landlord start the legal process to repossess the property at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) or during a periodic tenancy without needing to give a reason for why they want the property back. It is classed as a non-fault ground and usually used by private landlords when they want to recover possession of the property.
To serve a Section 21 notice the landlord must give the tenant 2 months’ notice using a Form 6a. Before doing so, the landlord must have provided the tenant with a copy of the following documentation:
- The How to Rent guide at the beginning of the tenancy
- A valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- A valid Gas Safety Certificate
A failure to comply with these requirements can invalidate the Section 21 notice.
In contrast, Section 8 notice uses form 3 to evict a tenant. This is a fault notice, as the landlord is seeking possession on the basis of a breach of the tenancy. The landlord needs to prove that the tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy agreement and use one of the grounds under schedule 2.
What will Section 21 notices be replaced with?
The Renters’ Reform Bill would be introduced in order to enhance renters’ security and improve protections for short-term tenants. This will be done by abolishing non-fault evictions and introducing a lifetime deposit, which will move with the tenant. This means that tenants will not need to save for a new deposit every time they move house.
What does abolishing the Section 21 notice mean for private landlords?
Private landlords need to beware of future changes to Section 21 as by abolishing the Section 21 notice, they are only left with the procedure of serving a Section 8 notice and using one of the grounds listed in schedule 2. Meaning that, if a landlord wants to sell the tenanted property there is currently no way, under Section 8, they can evict the tenant in order to sell, unless they sell with the tenant in situ. In order to address this grey area the government has proposed amending and introducing new Section 8 grounds. These will strengthen the rights of landlords who want to recover their properties. This includes when they want to sell or move into the property themselves.
Possession proceedings after the expiry of a Section 21 notice can be currently carried out under an accelerated possession proceeding. This is quicker than a normal eviction and does not usually need a court hearing. It only requires a court hearing when more information is required or the tenant raises a defence that the judge needs to understand more fully. This is in contrast to a Section 8 possession proceeding, which currently always requires a court hearing.
Therefore, should a Section 21 be abolished possession proceedings would only be bought under a Section 8. As it stands the courts are barely coping with existing Section 8 proceedings let alone in addition to those that would have been dealt with under Section 21 proceedings as well. Thus if Section 21 is abolished, Section 8 needs to be reformed and a new specialist housing tribunal created to deal with the demand.
When do the changes happen?
Currently there is no proposed date for when the changes could come into effect and it could take between 18 months to two years. Before the changes can become law, a new consultation on the proposed changes will need to take place. This will be followed by publication and consideration of the consultation document. The new legislation will then need to be drafted and make its way through Parliament.