No Fault Evictions, a political hot potato?

2 November 2023

The government recently announced that a proposed ban on “no fault” evictions will be delayed in England indefinitely, until the court system has undergone reform. The Renters (Reform) bill, originally brought before Parliament in 2019, promised sweeping reforms to the private rental sector, and one of the cornerstone points of the legislation was to scrap no fault evictions in their entirety.

Ministers have accused the government of essentially kicking the issue into the long grass, given that there is little clarity or definition to the governments suggested court reforms, and any proposed changes could take years to complete, leaving both landlords and tenants in limbo.

The Housing Act 1988

Under current legislation, a residential landlord in England can terminate a tenancy agreement and regain possession of a property in a number of ways, but most commonly will utilise the issuance notices under Sections 21 or 8 of the Housing Act 1988. The notice period and grounds for termination differ between both sections, with Section 21 being the “no fault” process and Section 8 being for situations when the tenant is deemed to have breached the tenancy agreement, or has acted irresponsibly towards the landlord’s property in some fashion. Common reasons for seeking termination under a Section 8 notice would be accruing rent arrears or proven anti-social or criminal behaviour. Notice periods under Section 8 would largely be determined by exactly what the tenant has done, however, generally as little as two weeks’ notice is sufficient, but notice can be provided immediately if actions of the tenant are appropriately serious.

Section 21 on the other hand is intended for circumstances where the landlord requires possession of the property, but the tenant has not acted in a way that would be deemed a breach of their tenancy agreement. Currently, the notice period for Section 21 in England is two months, after which eviction proceedings can be commenced if the tenant refuses to leave the property.

Campaign groups have long argued that this creates an unstable housing market and places unnecessary pressure on tenants, whereas landlord groups point out that a continuing tightening of legislation will only force potential rental properties away from the market, worsening the housing crisis further.

A new Approach

Should the Renters (Reform) bill eventually find its way into legislation, the removal of the Section 21 notice will very likely be one of the more impactful changes imposed on landlords and tenants alike. Landlords would still have options to remove a tenant in circumstances when they wished to sell the property, or when they, or a close family member, wants to move in. However, there will only be limited situations where a landlord can attempt to bring a tenancy to an end under a “no fault” basis.

This is similar to the current system in Wales, following the implementation of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, which effectively replaced the provisions of the Housing Act 1988 entirely. Responding to the Housing Select Committee’s Reforming the Private Rented Sector report, the government said:

“Implementation of the new system will not take place until we judge sufficient progress has been made to improve the courts. That means we will not proceed with the abolition of section 21, until reforms to the justice system are in place.”

Consequently, the issuance of Section 21 and 8 notices are likely to remain the primary method for regaining possession of property for landlords in England, and with the current reforms seemingly indefinitely delayed (pending currently vague and unsubstantiated court reforms), will remain so for the foreseeable future.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.