Government launches Section 21 consultation
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has launched its consultation on abolishing so called ‘no-fault’ evictions and improving Section 8 grounds. It will run for 12 weeks and closes on 12 October 2019.
Government proposal- abolishing Section 21
The Government is proposing the removal of Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) from the Housing Act 1988. This would mean that all landlords – private and social – will only be able to offer assured tenancies.
The tenancies will either be fixed-term assured tenancies – meaning both landlord and tenant are committed to a set period—or contractual periodic assured tenancies. A fixed-term tenancy not ended by a tenant or by a landlord using Section 8, could either be renewed to a new fixed term or automatically becomes a contractual periodic assured tenancy.
Under the proposals, tenants will still be able to end tenancies by giving notice and there is no intention to change the current requirement of one month’s notice. Tenants could only give notice at the end of a fixed term or during a periodic tenancy, unless the tenancy agreement includes a break clause.
Improving Section 8 grounds
The Government has suggested several improvements to the Section 8 process, including:
- Introducing a new ground when the landlord wants to sell the property and widen the current ground for use when landlords, their spouse or partner, or their families want to move into the property.
- Amending the current mandatory ground 8 rent arrears so that landlords need two months’ arrears on notice, one month’s arrears at the time of the hearing (and that if there are three instances of the tenant paying down and then re-accruing arrears, the ground becomes mandatory).
- Strengthening antisocial behaviour grounds – although no specific proposals yet
- Domestic violence ground is made available to private landlords, and that it is amended to give the victim more rights and protections
- Strengthening ground 13 to allow landlords to use this if tenants routinely refuse access to the property for repairs / safety checks.
The Government has also proposed introducing an accelerated process for possession (which would remove the need for a court hearing, unless the tenant challenges it) for mandatory grounds.
The Government indicated that they do not believe exceptions are needed for student tenancies, although they ask for views for extending the current ground to regain possession at the end of an educational course to private landlords, as well as institutions.
When will the changes come into force?
The consultation is the first stage of the process which will then be followed by a Government response, confirming the intention to introduce legislation in Parliament. At the earliest we expect that any changes will come into force late 2020/early 2021 depending on other Government priorities.
Once Parliament passes the law and it gets approved by the Queen, the Government has proposed a six-month transition period before the changes can be enforced. However, the consultation is inviting views on the suitability of the proposed transition period.
The changes will not be retrospective so any existing ASTs will not be affected but once the tenancy comes to an end, any new tenancy agreement will be an assured tenancy.
What can landlords do?
Landlords can make an individual response to the consultation and we encourage them to do so. The consultation is available online from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) website: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a-new-deal-for-renting-resetting-the-balance-of-rights-and-responsibilities-between-landlords-and-tenants.
Responses can be submitted via an online form, email or post by 12 October 11:45pm.
We will be producing a guide to help members navigate the consultation document.
Landlords can also continue to lobby their MPs about the Government’s proposed changes, the impact this will have on the private rented sector and their ability to offer tenancies. We have produced a lobbying guide which is available on our website: landlords.org.uk/section21 and linked on the right hand side.
What is the NLA doing?
The NLA will continue to lobby the Government on these changes. We will:
- Respond to the consultation on behalf of members – including using member case studies to illustrate the impact of the loss of Section 21
- Deliver our postcard petition to No 10 to argue to ‘Save Section 21’ – this can be signed online via landlords.org.uk/section21
- Use an independent economic analysis to show what the impact of the loss of Section 21 will be, which will be published in the coming weeks
- Continue to work with others in the sector to put forward a united approach to Government – such as the Fair Possessions Coalition
- Continue to engage with and lobby politicians and government officials on the changes
- Continue to use the media to make the case for wholesale reform of Section 8 and the courts – using evidence gathered from members to back up our case.