In June 2022, the Government published a white paper titled “A Fairer Private Rented Sector”, which set out details of its Renters’ Reform Bill.
Under the Bill, which is expected to be debated and voted in Parliament before the end of the year, there are several planned changes to the private rental market which aim to provide private renter with long-term security in their homes.
Along with the introduction of a ‘Register of Landlords’, the planned Bill will introduce a ‘private rented ombudsman’ to help enforce renters’ rights, plus give local authorities greater powers to enforce and protect people renting in the private property market. The Bill also intends to make it illegal for landlords and agents to refuse to rent a property to someone who receives benefits.
In addition, and perhaps of most significance for private landlords, is that the Bill intends to scrap Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.
Currently, landlords can issue a Section 21 Notice in England and Wales to reclaim repossession of their property from a tenant on Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreements, without having to establish or prove fault on the part of the tenant. However, the rationale for scrapping Section 21 evictions is, amongst other things, to provide tenants with protection against rogue landlords who use the threat of a Section 21 eviction notice to prevent complaints about the condition of a property and other poor practices.
Whilst we could discuss at length the benefits and failings of the Section 21 Notice process, they have been a useful tool for landlord seeking to regain possession of their properties. It is, therefore, important for private landlords to understand the options available to them to regain possession of their property if Section 21 notices are scrapped, but they still need to regain possession of their property in a ‘no fault’ situation.
To replace Section 21 notices, the government plans to introduce a simpler, more secure tenancy structure, where tenancies can only be terminated in specific circumstances. It is expected that this will include amendments to the grounds for repossession under the issuing of a Section 8 notice in cases where a landlord intends to sell the property, move close family members into the property, or move into the property themselves. In addition, it is expected that new ground for repossession will be introduced in for cases of persistent rent arrears and where a tenants has been in at least two months’ rent arrears three times within the past 3 years, regardless of the outstanding balance at the time of a hearing.
From an objective standpoint, good, professional landlords, are unlikely to see a significant change if Section 21 notices are abolished. They will still be able to evict problem tenants from their properties, with the formal grounds for doing so expanded under the use of Section 8 notices. Equally, landlords who wish to sell their property or reutilise them as a family home will continue to be able to do so. However, the biggest impact on landlords is that the actual mechanism for eviction will be a longer, more formal, and potentially more costly processes every single time.
For most landlords this will mean additional costs, time, and effort to achieve the same result and it will also become more important than ever for landlords to catalogue and hold evidence of rent arrears, written reports of anti-social behaviour, and tenancy review photographs that may provide grounds for future eviction, even if they have no intention of pursuing an eviction at that time.
The devil will, naturally, be in the detail. However, having been helping private landlords regain possession of their properties for more than 20 years, Terry Maylin at TM Law will be able to guide clients through any new processes, procedures, technicalities, and timescales to regain possession of their properties if, or when, the new Bill comes into law and these changes come into effect.
TM Law Ltd is a member of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales.
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