Are we saying goodbye to Section 21 Notices?

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has shaken a few feathers by announcing (earlier this month) its intention to abolish Section 21 notices. This has raised uproar amongst the Landlord community, and as experts in this field, Hillary Cooper Law are looking through the keyhole in this article to establish what this means for both Landlord and Tenants…

 

Playing the Landlord Game

Section 21 notices, also known as ‘no-fault’ notices, allow landlords to repossess their privately rented property. This means that landlords can serve a Section 21 notice and, if valid, can simply repossess their property from the tenant. It does essentially, provide them with the comfort that they can force a tenant to leave the premises at any time without the tenant defaulting on the terms of the lease and rent.

What makes a Section 21 Notice desirable for most Landlords is that they avoid lengthy litigation processes which in turn, can be costly and stressful for both parties. These types of notices cannot be challenged by the tenant and as such, are easy to enforce without the involvement of the courts. The unpredictable nature of this notice is, of course, unnerving for tenants and this is the driver behind the government’s argument to remove Section 21 evictions. Theresa May commented:

“Millions of responsible tenants could still be uprooted by their landlord with little notice, and often little justification.”

Furthermore, the government have confirmed they are seeking to “empower every single person living in the private rented sector to make the right housing choices for them- not have it made for them”.

Essentially, they are trying to protect non-problematic Tenants and so on the surface, this decision sounds great! Of course, a good tenant deserves to live in their property without the risk of being served with a Section 21 Notice. Furthermore, there has been an increase of horror stories exploited in the public eye about invalid Section 21 Notices being issued. For example, tenants have been served Section 21 Notices without having been provided with copies of Energy Performance Certificates, Gas Safety Certificates and a ‘How to rent’ guide during the relevant times, which are required in order make the notice valid.

Inevitably, the Landlord community have expressed their concerns with having the Section 21 right striped away from them. Many claim the wording ‘fixed-term’ in relation to leases becomes meaningless and creates a new system of indefinite tenancies in the event the tenant has not committed a fault, but the Landlord wishes to repossess their property.

Current conclusion: Tenants- 1. Landlords- 0.

 

What’s the alternative? Section 8 notices and Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1998

The are other laws that do and will continue to protect landlords. For example, Section 8 Notices allow landlord to repossess their property when the tenant HAS committed a fault. This could be anything from rent defaults, to anti-social behaviour. These are often litigious cases which require legal support and substantial evidence in order to take forward and enforce. It is important to note that unlike Section 21 Notices, tenants can challenge Section 8 evictions in court.

Furthermore, Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 lays out the grounds for possession. We understand that Ministers have made clear their intention to review these grounds and potentially apply additional grounds that sit in favour of landlords. They have also expressed an agenda for amending the Section 8 eviction process that will allow landlords to regain their properties should they wish to sell or occupy it themselves.

 

Score update: Tenants- 1. Landlords… potentially 1?

 

Our view

With so much emphasis by the government on how to provide a valid Section 21 Notice, this news has come as a surprise to Hillary Cooper Law. What is clear is that to maintain the interest of landlords, these reforms need to ensure that they can end tenancies where they have legitimate reasons to do so. Landlords will need to be given some element of reassurance to empower them with the confidence to invest in buy-to-let properties.

However, new legislation will need to be passed in order to abolish Section 21 evictions which may take time. Since a Section 8 will be the only way a landlord can repossess their property, it is crucial it is a robust piece of legislation that is fit for purpose. There is a lot of work required between Ministers, Landlord Associations and other sectors in order to ensure the new system works effectively and that everyone is confident with the proposed changes.

It will be interesting to see the changes the proposed abolition will bring and who knows, perhaps the words of Bob Dylan will hit home and encourage more peaceful relationships between Landlord and Tenant.

“Dear Landlord, if you don’t underestimate me I won’t underestimate you”

We would love to hear your thoughts. Is this a ground breaking victory for tenants or does this lead to the decrease in the confidence that landlords have in the buy-to-rent sector?