Government consults on ending Section 21

It's finally here! After announcing in April its intention to abolish Section 21, the government has published its proposals for making this happen.

We've been through the consultation document, which is open for responses until 12 October, and here's a quickish summary of what's in it. 

We'll be preparing our own response, but we also want to hear what you think. And most importantly, we're looking at how to make it easy for renters to respond and make sure the government does this right.

First, a quick word about what we want to see from the abolition of Section 21:

  • minimal unwanted moves
  • minimal hardship for tenants who face unwanted moves
  • more confidence to complain about disrepair and mistreatment

The government agrees with us that the threat of an eviction that you can't challenge leaves renters feeling "perpetually vulnerable" and this "potentially erodes trust" between tenants and their landlords. But they also want to make sure that landlords are comfortable with the changes, so they have proposed a series of adjustments for "any circumstances where a tenancy should be ended without the tenant being at fault".

Here's what the proposals look like:

No more Assured Shorthold Tenancies

Instead of the 6- or 12-month ASTs most of us are on, private tenancies will either be "fixed term assured tenancies" or "contractual periodic assured tenancies". You could either agree a fixed term where you couldn't move out and the landlord couldn't evict you on no-fault grounds, or a rolling contract where you could give 1 month's notice but the landlord could use no-fault grounds. 

Rent rises

Rents could still rise year on year, but only if agreed as part of fixed term contracts or if the landlord applies using Section 13 - this can be challenged at a Tribunal. However, this would not give tenants much protection if local rents had been rising faster than their incomes and their landlord wanted to force them out - the Tribunal currently decides what reasonable rent is based on the open market and the tenant can like it or lump it. Tenants need much stronger protection from unreasonable rent rises.

Existing protections from Section 21

Currently you can be protected from a Section 21 eviction if your landlord has flouted the law in certain ways, including failing to fix hazards (as long as your council has served them with an improvement notice), not protecting your deposit, or not providing a gas safety certificate. The government says these protections will be carried over to the new regime.

Grounds for eviction - no-fault

Without Section 21, landlords must prove their grounds for eviction, under Section 8 and Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988. This covers tenant fault grounds such as rent arrears and anti-social behaviour, along with some no-fault grounds, such as the landlord moving back in or refurbishment. 

The government wants to add selling up to these grounds, and allow landlords to evict to allow family members can move in. The government also suggests removing the requirement that the landlord previously lived in the home.

The proposals recognise the need for safeguards to prevent abuse. They reckon requiring the landlord to give prior notice to the tenant that they may eventually sell or move in themselves, and preventing the clauses from being used in the first two years of the tenancy, to do the job. 

However, eviction shouldn't be the go-to when a landlord wants to move back in or sell - they have other options: rent somewhere else themselves, and sell with tenants in situ (or to the tenants themselves). The government should be encouraging these alternatives, not letting landlords turf out tenants who've done nothing wrong and let them pick up the pieces. At the very least, landlords in this situation should cover the tenants' relocation costs - which is already a condition of Ground 6, to evict in order to refurbish.

Grounds for eviction - tenant fault

The government also proposes to strengthen the grounds for eviction when the tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy:

  • the landlord could serve 2 weeks' notice if the tenant is in 2 months' rent arrears, and the court would approve the eviction if the tenant still had at least 1 month's arrears or if the landlord could prove a pattern of arrears being paid off on 3 occasions.
  • landlords set certain tenancy terms which would make it easy to prove anti-social behaviour in court. The risk here is that unscrupulous landlords set draconian terms that tenants cannot easily challenge, whether in court or in their communications with the landlord.
  • the ground for evicting someone convicted of domestic abuse would be changed to take account of the victim's needs
  • tenants who obstruct "the landlord in carrying out their duties in relation to their safety responsibilities" could now face eviction. Unscrupulous landlords could invent numerous ways to abuse such a ground, so this would need to be designed carefully. 

One suggestion is that some grounds for possession don't need a hearing and can be decided based on written submissions. It is essential that tenants are able to challenge eviction grounds so we'll be making sure that this suggestion doesn't become another way for bad landlords to abuse the system.

"Specialist" grounds for eviction

The government is also looking at exemptions for student, agricultural and religious housing, and providers of homes with certain eligibility criteria (e.g. homes for key workers). There is also the big question of Airbnb and what the cut-off for short term lets should be. 

 

While we are closer to a fair rental market than we were when the government published its initial proposals last year - for 3-year tenancies at the landlord's discretion - these proposals still fall short of what renters need. By creating easy exemptions for landlords who want to sell up or move in we won't see a significant fall in evictions, and unwanted moves will continue to be as stressful as before. Under these proposals, tenants should have more confidence to complain - but only if there is no opportunity for the landlord to abuse the eviction process or raise the rent unreasonably. 

Renters need to push the government to go much further - and that means each of us responding to the consultation individually.

Generation Rent is working on how to make it easy to respond, writing our own response and gathering experiences of renters to feed into this. We'll be sharing our thoughts as we go.

In the meantime, you can read the consultation here - and pledge to respond here.

Showing 16 reactions

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  • Maureen Treadwell
    commented 2019-10-11 10:59:34 +0100
    Beth Dig – You are right. iI will certainly make things harder for low income tenants but I think the effect might be more in relation to landlords becoming more ‘picky’ and excluding those who might present any risk at all. All the recent legislation is meaning a lot of landlords are selling up making the number of properties available for rent smaller – so they will be in a position to exercise ‘pickiness’. Hmmm…unintended consequences of well-intentioned legislation!
  • Beth Dig
    commented 2019-10-11 00:20:50 +0100
    Surely low income tenants will suffer? Landlords are bound to become more choosy about to whom they let, harder referencing etc. And also won’t they just issue section 8 notices instead which cause tenants to have CCJs. I think section 21 should be kept but landlords should be made to give reasons.
  • Alex Macintyre
    commented 2019-08-29 11:22:13 +0100
    Hadi, you sound like a good LL. Sadly there are rogue LLs out there who penalise tenants for e.g complaining about poor housing conditions. A compromise needs to be reached by both sides. The court system needs to be quicker and easier too. I suggested arbitration via the Govt consultation site. This will help resolve smaller cases by passing them onto a Court appointed firm of solicitors. Just like employment disputes, simple matters can be resolved via an abitrator who is usually a neutral solicitor. Let the courts handle bigger cases.

    Again when a S21 is issued, tenants usually struggle finding money to move out so they hang on until the bitter end. I suggest rent refunds of 2-3 months or 2-3months rent free stays after a S21 is issued. This way a tenant will have the money to move out quickly rather than linger. Also this will discourage rogue LLs from being spiteful. No LL wants to lose money and if rent refunds or free stays are granted, then it’ll deter spiteful evictions. But cut off must be before 6 months.

    I suggest that if a rent refund or free stay after a S21 is given, the tenant must sign a document stating they have received a refund of rent or offered a rent free stay of max 3 months, and that they agree to leave by the end of 3 months. If not then court eviction will start. These are just my suggestions. As rent money would have been refunded or the tenant stayed rent free for say 3 months, there are few excuses they can give e.g “I don’t have money to move”. You as a LL would have made it possible via a refund or free stay, for them to move easily.

    I don’t think S21 should be scrapped, just more controlled.
  • Hadi Samsami
    commented 2019-08-29 10:25:29 +0100
    Maureen Treadwell thinks 2 months’ notice is unfair. In practice, a Section 21 Notice can only be served at the END or a contract and in practice a landlord cannot achieve eviction in less than 6 months and is a stressful and costly process. As a landlord, it took me over a year and I lost a lot of money by it.

    Being a landlord is about keeping tenants, not getting rid of tenants! An empty flat is as good as a shop without customers! A landlord wants to keep a good tenant, often by charging below market rent. I had a good tenant for over 30 years and when she died, I rented it to her son. He is as good a tenant as his mother and when the year’s contract ended, I did not increase the rent, just to hold onto him.
  • Hadi Samsami
    commented 2019-08-29 10:05:47 +0100
    There is already a shortage of rented housing. The government could make the situation worse by frightening the landlord away.

    A good tenant is like gold dust. Changing tenants is a nightmare and voids in tenancies are disastrous for landlords. A landlord would not evict a good tenant any more than a shopkeeper evict a good customer.
  • Alex Macintyre
    commented 2019-08-27 17:30:08 +0100
    Thanks Maureen. Ive just submitted my suggestions. Fingers crossed it helps.
  • Maureen Treadwell
    commented 2019-08-27 16:46:49 +0100
    Alex, it’s on the link below. You scroll down the page to get to the bit where they ask for responses. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a-new-deal-for-renting-resetting-the-balance-of-rights-and-responsibilities-between-landlords-and-tenants
  • Alex Macintyre
    commented 2019-08-27 12:34:08 +0100
    But rent refunds and free stays in the event a LL cant refund would be great. Anything to help a tenant save money to find a new home. If a LL let me stay rent free for 3 months after a s21 is issued then, id be happy as id have money to use to find a new home. Letting a tenant stay longer than 6months though would void a s21 i understand as a LL would have to restart the process again. Under 6 months is fair but extend notice from 2 months but cut off before 6 months.
  • Alex Macintyre
    commented 2019-08-27 12:24:06 +0100
    Hello Maureen. How do I do that? Or if you know how to maybe you could? Yes! Your idea is great too. Why should tenants lose out when a s21 is issued? Not only do you lose your home, you have to pay to find a new one and keep paying rent where you are leaving. Its unfair! Compensation e.g refunds seem fair. Or if a LL cant refund in cash, then allow the tenant to stay rent free longer than 2 months though. Refunds and rent free stays after a s21 is issued will discourage rogue LLs. They will think twice before being spiteful as they could lose rent via refunds or rent free stays.
  • Maureen Treadwell
    commented 2019-08-27 10:12:04 +0100
    That is a good idea, Alex. I don’t imagine many landlords would object either. Maybe a sliding scale ?
    If eight months notice, no refund, 8-5 months, 2 months free, 5-3 2 months free, under three, no further rent paid. Not thought that through in detail myself, but I agree something like that could work. Have you put it in the consultation?
  • Alex Macintyre
    commented 2019-08-26 22:57:42 +0100
    My post continued…
    For example a landlord wants to issue a s21, they could either be required to refund the tenant 2-3 months rent or allow the tenant to live rent free after a s21 is issued. By doing this, it’d discourage rogue LLs from evicting out of spite as they’d lose money if refunds were required. If a LL is genuine about e.g wanting their property back to sell or move back into, they’d be happy to refund rent. Sort of like a gesture of goodwill and it’d help the tenant pay for a new property to rent.

    When notice is given by either party, final rent still needs to be paid. So if i choose to move out, its my choice so id be expected to pay until I leave however if a s21 is given, its not my choice, i dont want to go yet im still expected to pay rent until i go. This is unfair as the LL is not disadvantaged. I would be. So if a refund of rent paid is given to me, it would be compensation of sorts for the inconvenience to me. I could then use that money towards a new home. Or let the tenant live rent free until they leave. These measures would encourage LLs to think seriously before issuing a S21.
  • Alex Macintyre
    commented 2019-08-26 12:20:48 +0100
    The comments from all below are valid and useful. Id suggest 3months notice instead with a section 21 or refund 2-3 months of a tenants rent if a LL wants them out. Thatll help the tenant secure a new home and pay the costs associated with that. Or live rent free until they leave after a s21 is given. Scrapping S21 all together will cause problems for all involved. A compromise has to be reached.
  • Maureen Treadwell
    commented 2019-08-25 21:45:42 +0100
    There has to be a balance of rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants. Two months notice is unfair and four to six months would be more reasonable. However, if you make the new regulations too arduous and too difficult for landlords to evict or repossess, they will simply withdraw from the market. Yes, those homes will still exist but those that can buy are not the same as those who want or need to rent. The rental market could dry up. The rental market does have faults but they are on both sides; a minority of rogue tenants and a minority of rogue landlords. The legislation needs to address both. Care needs to be taken not to drive away the good landlords or raise the cost of renting for the good tenants.
  • Hadi Samsami
    commented 2019-08-18 12:24:34 +0100
    There is already a shortage of rented housing. The government could make the situation worse by frightening the landlord away.

    A good tenant is like gold dust. Changing tenants is a nightmare and voids in tenancies are disastrous for landlords. A landlord would not evict a good tenant any more than a shopkeeper evict a good customer.
  • Alex Macintyre
    commented 2019-07-26 22:34:24 +0100
    “the landlord could serve 2 weeks’ notice if the tenant is in 2 months’ rent arrears, and the court would approve the eviction if the tenant still had at least 1 month’s arrears or if the landlord could prove a pattern of arrears being paid off on 3 occasions”

    The at least 1 months areas, is an issue. Suppose you are having a tough month financially or your HB is late, you could get evicted for missing Just one months payment??? I say make it 2-3 months instead. Dont make eviction easy for 1 months missed payment.
  • Dan Wilson Craw
    commented 2019-07-23 21:38:54 +0100
    A couple of further observations: by allowing fixed terms, the proposals could give landlords the ability to impose unsuitable terms on tenants who have no bargaining power – e.g. insisting on a three-year tenancy with no break clause. The landlord would be guaranteed rent, but the tenant would have no flexibility.

    Similarly, by leaving rent rises to the landlord and tenant to negotiate, the landlord could specify that the rent could go up by a maximum of, say, 10% per year. A tenant desperate for a home might take their chances but continue to fear an unaffordable rent rise every year, defeating the purpose of the reform.