As new statistics emerge around the frequency of using Section 21 notices, we await further details in the Renters' Reform Bill White Paper on the abolition of Section 21 in 2022.
The government has confirmed its intentions to repeal Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 in the May 2022 Queen's Speech, as originally set out in the Renters' Reform Bill released in late 2019, and "strengthen the rights of tenants."
Shelter has released statistics claiming that a Section 21 notice has been issued to a tenant every seven minutes since 2019, affecting 230,000 people - although Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, counters this, highlighting that the overall use of Section 21 notices has in fact been falling since 2015.
What is Section 21?
In normal circumstances, when the extended notice periods are not in place, landlords can evict their tenants under Section 21 by providing them with two months’ notice once their fixed-term contract has come to an end.
Landlords aren’t required to provide their tenants with a reason for eviction, hence the term “no-fault” eviction. In contrast, to serve a Section 8 notice, the landlord needs to prove that the tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy agreement.
What's changing for Section 21?
One of the proposed changes, as originally set out in the Renters' Reform Bill, included in the briefing notes to the Queen's Speech in 2019, is to remove Section 21.
The abolition of Section 21 would put an end to so-called “no-fault evictions” as part of the on-going project to create longer tenancies.
This means landlords will always need to provide their tenants with a reason for ending a tenancy, for example, breach of contract or wanting to sell the property.
Tenants will be able to choose to end the tenancy, as long as they provide sufficient notice to the landlord.
What will replace Section 21?
In addition to the removal of Section 21, the government has also proposed strengthening the grounds for repossession under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988.
This would not directly replace Section 21, but will strengthen the rights of landlords who want to recover their properties, including when they want to sell or move into the property themselves.
How will these changes to Section 21 affect possessions and tenancy lengths?
The government has also said that it plans to work with the Ministry of Justice and the Courts and Tribunal Service on reforming the court processes for possession, alongside ending Section 21.
However, the government will consider limiting the use of these new Section 8 grounds until the tenancy has lasted for two years. They do note there has been “no consensus” around mandating a tenancy length.
A previous consultation found tenants preferred different tenancy lengths depending on their circumstances, whilst landlords favoured the status quo.
The government has also said any legislation around changes to tenancy lengths will be “accompanied by appropriate safeguards for landlords”.
When will Section 21 be abolished?
There is no proposed date for when the changes to Section 21 could come into effect, though, if we look to recent legislation changes, such as the Tenant Fees Act, as a guide, this could take between 18 months to two years.
Before the changes can become law, a new consultation on the proposed changes will need to take place, followed by publication and consideration of the consultation document. The new legislation will then need to be drafted and make its way through Parliament.
The government will publish a white paper on all the proposals in the Renters' Reform Bill in 2022, and has published a research paper on the history of the debate around Section 21 in the interim.