TENANT campaigners and councils have welcomed the Government’s decision to axe so-called ‘no fault’ evictions, but landlords say the proposed ban risks damaging supply of homes for rent.
The Government has outlined plans to consult on new legislation to abolish Section21 evictions set out in the 1988 Housing Act, which allow landlords to remove tenants with as little as eight weeks’ notice after their fixed-term contract has ended.
Those opposed to such ‘no fault’ evictions have called them unfair and claim their use is increasing homelessness. What’s more, campaigners have expressed concern that that they are open to abuse, alleging that some landlords use them to evict tenants who have complained about disrepair issues.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) said that scrapping Section21 evictions would effectively create open-ended tenancies, giving “greater peace of mind to millions of families”.
“Many tenants live with the worry of being evicted at short notice or continue to live in poor accommodation for fear they will be asked to leave if they complain about problems with their home,” the ministry added. “It will give them the reassurance that they will not be suddenly turfed out of their home and reduces the risk of being faced with having nowhere else to go.”
The private rented sector has grown rapidly over recent years, becoming the second largest tenure, with more than four million people now living in privately rented accommodation.
“Everyone renting in the private sector has the right to feel secure in their home, settled in their community and able to plan for the future with confidence,” said the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
“But millions of responsible tenants could still be uprooted by their landlord with little notice, and often little justification.
“This is wrong – and today we’re acting by preventing these unfair evictions. Landlords will still be able to end tenancies where they have legitimate reasons to do so, but they will no longer be able to unexpectedly evict families with only eight weeks’ notice.
“This important step will not only protect tenants from unethical behaviour, but also give them the long-term certainty and the peace of mind they deserve.”
Communities secretary, James Brokenshire MP, added: “By abolishing these kinds of evictions, every single person living in the private rented sector will be empowered to make the right housing choice for themselves – not have it made for them. And this will be balanced by ensuring responsible landlords can get their property back where they have proper reason to do so.
“We are making the biggest change to the private rental sector in a generation. We are creating homes, opportunities and thriving communities, where people can come together and put down roots, bound by a strong sense of belonging.
“Everyone has a right to the opportunities they need to build a better life. For many, this means having the security and stability to make a place truly feel like home without the fear of being evicted at a moments’ notice. We are building a fairer housing market that truly works for everyone.”
Under the proposals, landlords will have to provide a concrete reason already specified in law for bringing tenancies to an end, as well as show evidence, rather than as now under current rules, where landlords are allowed to evict tenants at any time after the fixed-term contract has come to an end, and without specifying a reason.
MHCLG said that to ensure “responsible landlords have confidence” they will be able to end tenancies where they have legitimate reason to do so; ministers will amend the Section 8 eviction process, so property owners are able to regain their home should they wish to sell it or move into it.
Court processes will also be speeded up, so landlords are able to swiftly and smoothly regain their property in the event of tenants falling into rent arrears or damaging the property.
Ministers will also work with other types of housing providers outside of the private rented sector who use these powers and use the consultation to make sure the new system works effectively.
“This really is fantastic news for private renters,” said a spokesperson for Generation Rent. “Section21 allows landlords to evict without providing a reason and stops private renters from asking for repairs and enforcing their rights for fear of revenge eviction. [It] means tenants can be turfed out of their homes and neighbourhoods with just two months’ notice, and the anxiety and stress that the knowledge this can happen to you causes is very tangible, particularly for families and older renters.
“These unfair, unplanned evictions force people into debt, and are a leading cause of the awful levels of homelessness, which we can all see around us. And the excessive flexibility that section21 gives landlords encourages the buy-to-let market, which has driven up prices and locked so many of us out of homeownership.
“The announcement that the Government will end section21 evictions and create open-ended tenancies is brilliant, but it’s also just the start. We’ve got to make sure that the detail of this policy is right for renters, and we’ll be working with government and feeding into their forthcoming consultation on this…
“We also need to make sure that rent rises are capped or can be effectively challenged within the new tenancy. Ending no fault evictions won’t make the difference needed if landlords can increase the rent by hundreds of pounds a month to drive out tenants economically if they report a leak.”
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said: “Housing security is critical for the health and wellbeing of families and everyone deserves a safe, secure and affordable place to call home.
“The vast majority of landlords are responsible and provide decent housing for their tenants, but their reputation can be tarnished by a minority that can exploit loopholes with little regard to the welfare of tenants.
“Around a third of all families that councils accepted as homeless last year were made homeless by the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy. We therefore look forward to exploring the detail of the proposals that aim to ensure that landlords cannot evict tenants without sufficient warning or justification.
“However, the proposal does not address the unaffordability of housing which is a key reason why many families lose their tenancy and become homeless. To address this the Government needs to adapt welfare reforms, and reform Right to Buy so that councils can build more genuinely affordable council homes.”
John Healey MP, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “Any promise of new help for renters is good news but this latest pledge won’t work if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking the rent.
“For nine years, the Tories have failed to tackle problems facing private renters. Tenants need new rights and protections across the board to end costly rent increases and sub-standard homes as well as to stop unfair evictions.
“Labour is committed to giving renters the rights they deserve, including control on rents, indefinite tenancies and new legal minimum standards.”
However, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) warned of “serious dangers” to the supply of rental housing for vulnerable tenants as a result of the plans to axe Section21.
“Whilst the RLA recognises the pressure being placed on Government for change, there are serious dangers of getting such reforms wrong,” said David Smith, the organisation’s policy director.
“With the demand for private rented homes continuing to increase, we need the majority of good landlords to have confidence to invest in new homes. This means ensuring they can swiftly repossess properties for legitimate reasons such as rent arrears, tenant anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell them. This needs to happen before any moves are made to end Section21.
“For all the talk of greater security for tenants, that will be nothing if the homes to rent are not there in the first place. We call on the government to act with caution.”
The Government said it will shortly launch a new consultation on its proposals and will “collaborate with and listen to” tenants, landlords and others in the private rented sector to develop a new deal for renting.