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Section 21: What if the law is changed

Matthew Williamson looks at proposals to extend protection for tenants.

Earlier this year, the UK Government put forward “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation” in England. 

It is proposing changes that will prevent private landlords evicting tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason. At present, a private landlord is able to serve a Section 21 notice after the initial fixed term has come to an end. This enables the landlord to recover possession for no stated reason. 

A Section 21 eviction, sometimes known as a “no-fault” eviction, can be useful for landlords if, for example, there is a change of circumstances and the house is needed for an employee or family member, or in the event that a tenant is deemed unsuitable, such as when the tenant has misused the property.

The consultation is ongoing, but if the Government moves ahead with this proposal landlords will only be able to rely on grounds contained within Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 such as rental arrears, damage to the property, a breach of the tenancy agreement or the landlord requires the property to either live in it themselves or sell. 

At present, eviction notices which rely on these grounds can involve a protracted procedure through the courts, but the Government proposes to ensure that “the court processes will be expedited so landlords are able to swiftly and smoothly regain their property”. 

Scotland had similar legislation changes back in December 2017 which saw the creation of the “private residential tenancy”. 

This is an open-ended tenancy and will last until a tenant wishes to leave the let property or a landlord uses one of 18 grounds for eviction including rental arrears, anti-social behaviour, or the landlord intends to renovate the property. 

The changes do not seem to have had a detrimental impact on residential lettings but the importance of robust referencing and professional lettings management, which Galbraith can provide, is now paramount. 

If the proposed changes come into force in England, landlords will need to ask themselves about their future needs when an opportunity to re-let a property arises: Will they need the property back in the future for an employee or relative? Are they prepared to let it on an open-ended tenancy? 

Galbraith can provide advice to landlords across the UK on such issues and also provide a full lettings service including a tenant finding service, referencing and property management service.