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Reassurance for tenants over section 21 notices

View profile for Helen Porter
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The abolishment of eviction notices under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 could be seen as a positive move for tenants as they will remove the ability for landlords to evict them without a justifiable reason.  However, there is a concern from the Resident Landlords Association (RLA), which is the largest representative for landlords within the UK, that “landlords will be more selective when this abolishment is in place”.  Understandably, this raises causes for concern for current and future tenants. Helen Porter, Litigation and Dispute Resolution Partner, explains more about section 21 notices and what the abolishment could mean for the future.

Why have section 21 notices been more commonly used?

A section 21 notice currently allows a landlord to evict a tenant, through no fault of their own, provided that a minimum of two months’ written notice is served to end their assured shorthold tenancy, to expire no sooner than the last day of the fixed term of their agreement. This notice enables the landlord to regain possession of their property without having to give a reason for evicting the tenant, provided the correct legal procedure has been followed both at commencement and throughout the duration of the tenancy.

How is a section 8 notice different to a section 21 notice?

For a landlord to regain possession of their property in reliance on a section 8 notice, they must demonstrate a level of fault on the part of the tenant and adduce sufficient evidence to prove the tenant has breached the terms of their tenancy agreement.

How does the plan to abolish section 21 notices impact tenants?

Tenants should be reassured that if the section 21 procedure were abolished, landlords will be unable to serve an eviction notice unless they can satisfy one of the grounds under Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 enabling them to serve a section 8 notice. No-fault evictions, as they are commonly referred to, will no longer exist, and the landlord will have to sufficiently prove to the court that the tenant is at fault.

Statistics published by the RLA in respect of landlord’s serving a section 21 notice show the following reasons for their use:

  • 84% had used it because their tenant hadn't been paying rent
  • 56% had used it because of damage to property
  • 51% had used it because of anti-social behaviour.

This highlights how the most common usage of section 21 notices were contractual breaches as a result of the tenants’ conduct, and so could still have been served using a section 8 notice.

Provided a well drafted tenancy agreement is in place, there are no rent arrears or any additional contractual breaches on the part of the tenant, tenants should not be taken aback by this abolishment which provides them with added protections by preventing no-fault evictions.

Risks for tenants

As to whether or not landlords will become more selective is unknown at this stage.  Landlords may seek to offer tenancies to those with higher incomes to avoid the risk of rent arrears.  They may also consider not allowing pets or children as they may risk there being more damage to the property.  It seems more likely that landlords will seek to have tighter tenancy agreements, potentially enforcing more contractual obligations such as these upon the tenant.  Provided the tenant acts in accordance with their agreement, they will not risk facing eviction.

Tenants may be able to demonstrate that they have sufficient financial income to afford to rent long term but this is no different from the current state of the sector. Section 8 notices can be served upon a tenant as soon as they fall into rent arrears, and a mandatory possession order will be made where the arrears are at least 2 months at the date of service of the notice, and at the date of the possession hearing. As illustrated above, rent arrears is the main reason for serving an eviction notice, although this is not the only ground on which a notice can be served under section 8. Landlords desire tenants who comply with their tenancy agreement, pay rent on time and consistently, and provided tenants do not breach their obligations there should be less of a reason for the landlord to seek an eviction notice or become “more selective”.  Remember, it is just as costly for landlords to enforce a possession order against a tenant and financial loss is never desired for them.

If you have been served with a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice by your landlord and you have questions about your rights, then contact Laura Blakemore on 023 8071 7412 or email laurablakemore@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.