Landlords in England will no longer be able to evict tenants without a good legal reason and long notice, in what has been heralded a huge victory for renters.
The government announced on Monday that it would end section 21 evictions – essentially a way landlords can force tenants to leave a property with no reason, and which campaigners say has been a major contributor to home insecurity and homelessness.
While is not yet clear when the ban will come into place, campaigners have welcomed the move – while also warning that landlords must be stopped from using other loopholes to get rid of tenants.
What is Section 21?
Section 21 is a rule that enables a private landlord to force a tenant to leave a property with eight weeks’ notice once their rental contract has ended. For example, you may have been renting a property for three years and wish to sign up for another 12 months – but if your landlord serves you a Section 21 notice, you will have to leave.
There are concerns this is being abused by rogue landlords to get rid of tenants for spurious reasons. Georgie Laming, a campaigner at Generation Rent said, it was being used to “intimidate tenants into keeping quiet about disrepair or poor practice”.
Other charities and campaign groups, including Shelter, said it could push people into homelessness while also giving families limited security and stopping them from putting down roots in their community..
Will Changes Mean Renters Are More Secure?
There are an estimated 11 million people renting in England and with the cost of property ownership increasingly out of the sights of many people, that number is only expected to rise. However, many people feel insecure in their properties and report that the balance of power is on the side of landlords.
While any detail in the new law is still to be thrashed out, in theory tenants should get significantly better rights and longer tenancies once it changes.
Currently, your tenancy can be ended without your landlord giving you any reason – but when Section 21 is scrapped, they’ll need to give a valid reason. This could be that they want to move into the property themselves or sell.
The change in law won’t protect you entirely from having to leave – a landlord could get round it by, for example, raising your rent to a point where it was unaffordable.
Could You Still Be Evicted Without Section 21?
Landlords can rely on the existing Section 8 eviction route if you’re in rent arrears, have engaged in criminal or antisocial behaviour, or have broken the terms of your tenancy. But without Section 21, they’ll need to jump through more hoops – and for tenants, Section 8 notices are easier to appeal, as a landlord needs to take you to court to enforce one.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the announcement was an “outstanding victory” for renters.
“This change will slam the brakes on unstable short-term tenancies and give tenants everywhere a massive boost in security,” she said.
Prime Minister Theresa May said scrapping Section 21 would give renters “long-term certainty” and protection against “unfair evictions”.
How Have Landlords Reacted So Far?
Some landlords, perhaps unsurprisingly, aren’t delighted with the government’s announcement on Section 21 and have warned that the move could discourage investment in new homes in the private rental sector at a time when local councils have huge waiting lists for social and affordable housing.
“There are serious dangers of getting such reforms wrong,” said David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association. “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 government has also promised to speed up processes for evictions in these instances, but Smith said landlords “call on the government to act with caution.”