I’d suggest sitting down before you read this.
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, has announced/is to announce depending on when you read this, that the Government is to abolish section 21. Honest. Really. Truly.
Feel free to take a moment. I found out on Friday, under embargo, and am still taking a moment.
If you have recovered, read on. From the press release:
The Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, said:
“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.
When is this going to happen? Not quickly, that much is clear. There will be a consultation:
As part of a complete overhaul of the sector, the government has outlined plans to consult on new legislation to abolish Section 21 evictions – so called ‘no-fault’ evictions. This will bring an end to private landlords uprooting tenants from their homes with as little as eight weeks’ notice after the fixed-term contract has come to an end.
And, it appears, that as part of that, that proceedings under section 8 notices and Housing Act 1988 Schedule 2 grounds of possession are also to be reviewed:
Under the proposals, landlords will have to provide a concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law for bringing tenancies to an end a marked step-change from the current rules which allows landlords to evict tenants at any time after the fixed-term contract has come to an end, and without specifying a reason.
And 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 expedited so landlords are able to swiftly and smoothly regain their property in the rare event of tenants falling into rent arrears or damaging the property – meaning landlords have the security of knowing disputes will be resolved quickly.
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.
There will, of course, have to be changes to the existing Schedule 2 grounds. But these need to be carefully considered (and also the extent of their application – would they apply to all assured tenancies, including social tenancies?). And expedition of court processes? As per my previous posts on a ‘housing court’, this is in large part a question of resources.
And of course, there are all those requirements that have the invalidation of a s.21 notice as their sanction for breach, from deposit protection to provision of gas safety certificates. All those will need re-thinking.
So there will be much at stake, in the consultation and in the consequential legislation (if it happens).
And as Labour’s response from John Healey, Shadow Secretary of State points out
“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.”
But still, blimey.
We live in uncertain times. The life span of the current government is anyone’s guess. But this is quite remarkable, and would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. As Labour announced that its policy was to end no fault evictions some time ago, we are now in a position where both the major parties have as their stated policy the ending of section 21.
We should also note that the First Minister in Wales announced on Friday that the Welsh Government will be banning section 21. This is a little baffling, as when Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 finally comes into force, it will scrap assured shorthold tenancies altogether, and section 21 will cease to exist. However, in its current form, Renting Homes (Wales) Act does include ‘no fault’ evictions by landlord’s notice, so it has to be presumed that what was intended was that RH(W)A will be amended to remove that. Which will no doubt delay it further.