News

What is Section 21, and what is changing?

By Alex Timperley, 18 April 2019

The government has announced plans to ban the controversial Section 21 measures in England, following a similar ban that is already in place in Scotland.

Section 21 notices allow a landlord to evict a renter without providing a good reason at any time after their fixed-term tenancy period has ended and the agreement has reverted to a rolling contract. These “no-fault evictions” are notoriously hard to challenge in court and have been described by housing campaigners as one of the leading causes of family homelessness.

To illustrate the scale of the problem, 2018 research from Citizens Advice showed that 46% of tenants who made a formal complaint to a local authority about their living conditions were issued with a Section 21 eviction notice within six months. With almost half of tenants having to take this gamble, it is no surprise that the government was eventually forced to act.

Under the new government proposals, landlords will still be able to evict problem tenants under Section 8 legislation; however, the process is slightly different. Under Section 8, a tenant can only be evicted if they have broken the terms of the tenancy, for instance by failing to pay rent or causing significant damage. This legislation will also be strengthened to allow landlords to regain the property if they decide to sell it or move in themselves. All evictions under Section 8 require two months’ notice in writing.

In addition, the government is speeding up court processes to evict rule-breaking tenants so that landlords can regain their properties in a timely fashion if a tenant falls into arrears or damages the property.

James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, has said that the plans would offer “stability” to the growing number of renters, including families, who are afraid to make a complaint in case they are evicted. He added that the new plans would provide landlords with “speedy redress” who needed to regain their properties for legitimate reasons.

Overall, the changes are certainly a big win for tenants. Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, called the changes an “outstanding victory” following its finding that one in five families who rent privately have had to move at least three times in the last five years.

Similarly, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, called the change a “groundbreaking shake-up” that would help redress the balance between tenants and landlords.

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