One of the aims of the Housing Act 1988 was to deregulate private sector tenancies and give landlords greater freedoms, including setting rent rates and the power to regain possession of their property for assured and assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs). The private rental sector grew following the introduction of the Act with 9% of households in England as private renters in 1988, rising to 22% post 2015. These rates coincided with a considerable increase in homelessness due to the end of an AST. Where a local authority had to secure housing, AST was provided as a reason for requiring this service in 15% of cases in 2010/11 which rose sharply to 27% in 2017/18.
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 allows private landlords to repossess their properties without establishing fault by the tenant, also known as the ‘no fault’ ground for eviction. Section 21 requires the Landlord to serve notice to tenants a minimum of of two months before they intend to repossess the property. This notice period was extended during the pandemic to provide tenants with greater protection, returning to the two months’ notice period on 30 September 2021.
If the tenant does not vacate the property by the expiry date of the notice, the landlord can seek a court order for repossession. If the landlord has correctly adhered to all of the legal requirements and there is no defence, the court will grant a possession order to repossess the property. Possession claims peaked during 2019 reaching the highest levels recorded since 2000. This sparked a raft of measures being introduced by the government in 2020 to protect tenants, including the suspension of all housing possession activity in England and Wales between 27 March 2020 and 20 September 2020.
The Government has made repeated commitments to abolish section 21 of the Housing Act since 2019, with efforts being delayed due to the pandemic. Pressure has been applied by multiple Select Committees leading to the announcement of the Renters’ Reform Bill in the Queens Speech this week, ahead of the release of the Levelling Up White paper.
It has been announced that the Renters’ Reform Bill will abolish the ‘no fault’ section 21 notice. This will increase tenant’s security and provide greater confidence to challenge poor conditions and unreasonable rent increases, without fear of eviction. A property portal will also be introduced which will allow tenants to hold their landlord to account and facilitate a greater understanding of the landlord’s obligations. An ombudsman will be created to solve disputes between private landlords and tenants to reduce costs and prevent the need to go to court. The Bill will additionally introduce stronger possession grounds in cases of repeated rent arrears and a reduction of notice periods when there is antisocial behaviour.
A date of removal of the section 21 notice has not yet been set, but the Renters’ Reform Bill confirms that it will be coming into force in the near future. If you require advice on your rights as a tenant or a landlord of an AST, under the Housing Act 1988, we can assist you. Please speak to one of our specialists by calling us on 0845 287 0939, contacting us by email or chat to us through the online chat below.