News has broken this week that the government is planning to stop landlords ending tenancies without ‘legitimate reasons’ in England. Under current law, once a fixed term tenancy comes to an end, a landlord can use Section 21 of the Housing Act to end the tenancy without having to show a reason, giving the tenant two months’ notice.
Here we answer some frequently asked questions about the changes. This applies only to Assured Shorthold tenancies in England. Different rules apply in different parts of the UK and for different types of tenancy. The majority of private renters in England have an Assured Shorthold tenancy.
What is the current ‘Section 21’ eviction process in England?
If a tenant has a fixed-term lease, the landlord can ask the tenant to leave, without giving a reason, at the end of the fixed term. The process for ending the tenancy this way is to issue a notice to quit under ‘Section 21’ of the Housing Act. This can be issued two months before the end of the tenancy, so that the tenant has to leave on the day the tenancy ends.
Alternatively, if the tenant stays beyond the end of their tenancy, without signing a new fixed lease, the Section 21 notice can be issued at any time, giving no less than two months’ notice. The notice should expire the day before the rent is due. For example, if the rent is paid on the first day of the month, and the Section 21 notice is issued on the 10th day of the month, the tenant will be given two months plus 21 days, to bring the notice up to the day before the rent is due to be paid.
When does Section 21 not apply?
The Section 21 process only applies where the landlord doesn’t have other ‘grounds’ to evict a tenant. You may therefore hear the Section 21 process described as ‘no-fault eviction’.
If a tenant is in rent arrears, or has breached the tenancy agreement, the landlord can use a different process to evict the tenant. After the proposed changes come into effect, the landlord will still be able to evict the tenant on such grounds.
Does this mean a tenant can only be evicted if they breach the tenancy agreement?
No, there may be other ways in which a tenancy can be brought to an end after the changes come into effect. For example, if a landlord wants to sell the property or move into it, they will still be able to apply to the court to end the tenancy.
When will the changes to Section 21 come into effect?
At present, the changes are in consultation stage, so no date has yet been set for the new law to come into effect.
Why is the government planning to change the law on Section 21 no-fault evictions?
Theresa May has stated that the changes are designed to “protect tenants from unethical behaviour” and “give them the long-term certainty and the peace of mind they deserve”. She also stated: “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.
"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.
What else is changing?
The new laws will also go some way in protecting landlords. The government has promised to speed up the eviction process where a tenant is in rent arrears or has breached the terms of their tenancy agreement.
What is the advantage of the abolition of Section 21 for tenants?
The new legislation will give tenants more security in their homes. Provided the tenant adheres to the terms of their tenancy agreement, the changes should be beneficial to them.
Will the changes to Section 21 affect a tenant's right to end the tenancy too?
There is no indication that the changes will make it more difficult for tenants to leave at the end of their fixed-term tenancy.
Could the abolition of Section 21 disadvantage tenants in any way?
Some groups have raised concerns about the proposed changes. David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark, said they could “deter landlords from operating in the market”.
David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association, said the government must ensure the changes are applied with caution: “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 Section 21.”
The concern is that a reduction in rented housing stock could drive up rents in the long term.
I am a lodger living in the same property as the landlord. Will the changes apply to me?
No. Lodgers who share a property with their landlord are subject to different rules, and the changes will not apply to them.
Will the abolition of section 21 apply to existing tenancies or new tenancies only?
This has not yet been announced.