In a recent turn of events, the government has officially announced a delay in the execution of plans to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions. The decision comes in response to widespread concerns and extensive lobbying by the NRLA, signalling a promising development for landlords. The government now asserts that the elimination of Section 21 will be deferred until substantial improvements are made to the court system.

What is Section 21 of The Housing Act 1988

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, a pivotal legal provision in the United Kingdom’s housing legislation, pertains to the process of regaining possession of a property by a landlord. Commonly known as a “Section 21 Notice” or “no-fault eviction” notice, it provides landlords with a legal mechanism to terminate an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) without the need to give a specific reason or prove fault on the part of the tenant.

Key Points of Section 21

1. No-Fault Eviction:

Section 21 allows landlords to regain possession of their property without specifying a particular reason. Unlike Section 8, which requires a valid reason, such as rent arrears or tenant misconduct, Section 21 provides a more straightforward path for landlords seeking to end a tenancy.

2. Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST):

This provision applies to ASTs, the UK’s most common form of tenancy. ASTs typically have a fixed term, but Section 21 can be used to terminate both fixed-term and periodic tenancies.

3. Notice Requirements: 

Landlords must serve the tenant a written notice, a Section 21 Notice, to initiate the eviction process. The notice must comply with specific legal requirements, including providing a minimum notice period (usually two months) and adhering to the prescribed format.

4. Timing and Restrictions:

Landlords can only serve a Section 21 Notice within the first four months of the tenancy, and it can only expire after the end of the fixed term if certain conditions are met. Additionally, landlords must have fulfilled their legal obligations, such as providing the tenant with a copy of the government’s “How to Rent” guide and securing the tenant’s deposit in a government-approved scheme.

5. Court Proceedings:

If the tenant does not vacate the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may need to apply to the court for a possession order. It’s important to note that court proceedings may be necessary if the tenant contests the eviction or the landlord fails to follow the correct legal procedures.

Section 21 has been a subject of debate and proposed reforms in recent years, with discussions often revolving around balancing the rights of landlords and tenants. Understanding and navigating the intricacies of Section 21 is crucial for landlords and tenants involved in the private rental sector in the UK.

Government’s U-Turn and Additional Pledges

The unexpected reversal in the government’s stance is a testament to the influence of collective advocacy efforts. With fears of a potential mass exodus of landlords, if Section 21 were to be eliminated, the NRLA’s persistent lobbying has played a pivotal role in this decision. Additionally, the government has committed to introducing new grounds for possession tailored explicitly for student landlords. This move addresses apprehensions surrounding the impact of the proposed periodic tenancies on the student rental market.

Understanding Section 21 and Court Reforms

The initial proposal to abolish Section 21, a vital element of the Renters’ Reform Bill, sparked widespread debate within the industry. Industry experts advocated reevaluating the plans, emphasising the need for a more viable alternative than Section 8. Many landlords expressed legitimate concerns about relying solely on Section 8, as the court process for possession claims under this provision is notoriously time-consuming, averaging over six months.

The NRLA’s argument is straightforward: responsible landlords may only exit the sector with a streamlined court process. In a market where rental demand consistently outpaces supply, the potential departure of property investors could leave tenants struggling to secure housing.

Encouragingly, the government has clarified that the elimination of Section 21 “will not take place until we judge sufficient progress has been made to improve the courts.”

Addressing Student Landlords and Periodic Tenancies

Acknowledging the unique challenges faced by student landlords, the government has concurred with the NRLA’s concerns regarding periodic tenancies. The worry centres around potential supply issues and void periods for student landlords as fixed-term tenancies are phased out.

The government has committed to “introduce a ground for possession that will facilitate the yearly cycle of short-term student tenancies.” This measure aims to ensure that new students can confidently secure housing in advance, contributing to the stability of the student housing market.

Commentary from NRLA Chief Executive

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the NRLA, expressed satisfaction with the government’s approach, stating, “Following extensive campaigning by the NRLA, we welcome the approach taken by ministers to ensure court improvements are made before Section 21 ends. The Government is also right to protect the student housing market. However, more is needed to ensure student landlords are treated the same as purpose-built student accommodation providers.”

What This News Means for Landlords

Landlords can now sigh with relief, knowing that plans to scrap Section 21 have been temporarily halted. The government’s consideration of the implications of periodic tenancies on student landlords is also a positive development. The crucial next steps involve ongoing collaboration between the government, the NRLA, and property investors to establish practical measures that support the Private Rental Sector (PRS) amidst increasing demand for rental properties.

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