Theresa May has announced plans to end “no-fault” evictions which are one of the biggest drivers of family homelessness, as part of a major shake-up of the private rented sector.
Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants at the end of their rental contracts without giving a good legal reason and long notice.
The prime minister said the move should give renters “peace of mind” as they will be able to effectively benefit from open ended tenancies rather than six or 12-month contracts.
The move was welcomed by Shelter as an “outstanding victory” for England’s 11 million private renters, although Labour warned the plan would not work if landlords are allowed to get around the rules by hiking rents and pricing tenants out of their homes.
But May said the proposals would give renters “long-term certainty” after consulting on new legislation to abolish Section 21 evictions, which allow landlords to uproot tenants with as little as eight weeks’ notice when their contract comes to an end.
Under the new system, landlords will instead have to provide a concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law for ending a tenancy.
May said: “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.
“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 added: “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.”
Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey 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.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added: “Government plans to abolish no-fault evictions represent an outstanding victory for England’s 11 million private renters. This change will slam the brakes on unstable short-term tenancies and give tenants everywhere a massive boost in security, for which the government will deserve great credit.
“One in four families now privately rent their home, as do hundreds of thousands of older people. And yet, we frequently hear from people with contracts shorter than your average gym membership, who live in constant fear of being thrown out at the drop of a hat. Ending Section 21 evictions will transform these renters’ lives – giving them room to breathe and put down roots in a place they can finally call home.
“Getting this new legislation through parliament is critical to people being able to stay in their rented home as long as they need, so we look forward to the government passing this law as quickly as possible.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said the government must address a “chronic” housing shortage and “woefully inadequate” levels of housing benefit which mean many people struggle to afford a rented home.
But he added: “We warmly welcome the news that private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants at short notice with no reason.
“We know that the end of a private tenancy is the single leading cause of homelessness across England so this decision represents a monumental leap forward in helping prevent homelessness across the country.”
Landlords warned that the moves could discourage investment in new homes.
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Whilst the RLA recognises the pressure being placed on Government for change, there are serious dangers of getting such reforms wrong.
“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.
“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.”