The Renters (Reform) Bill introduced a proposal to ban so-called “no-fault evictions”. During discussions on the Bill in the House of Commons this week, the government revealed that it intends to delay introducing the proposals until the courts have been reformed. It appears likely that this will be after the next General Election which is due to take place in autumn 2024.
| Renters (Reform) Bill – what is it?
The Renters (Reform) Bill aims to make the private rented section fairer for tenants. It was first mentioned back in 2019, and introduced into Parliament in May 2023. It has been the cause of many headlines focussed on the biggest proposed change: the abolition of ‘no-fault’ evictions.
The proposed changes are celebrated by tenants who say that they currently feel unable to enforce their rights in relation to repairs and to challenge unreasonable rent increases. They say that the changes will give them greater security knowing that they cannot be evicted without reason.
However, there is concern amongst landlords that the changes do not adequately protect their right to reclaim their property where, for example, personal circumstances change.
It is thought that if the changes are brought in, landlords will opt to leave the private rented sector leading to a reduction in available houses for potential tenants. According to a recent survey, 49% of landlords planning to sell a property are doing so because of the proposed new legislation.
| Current Available Eviction Methods
There are two main methods available to landlords to evict their tenants. The first is under section 8 Housing Act 1988 and the second is under section 21 Housing Act 1988.
To evict a tenant under section 8, the landlord must demonstrate that the tenant is at fault in some way and that one of the prescribed ‘grounds’ for eviction apply. Common grounds include rent arrears or anti-social behaviour. If the court is satisfied that one (or more) of the grounds applies, it will consider making an order for possession of the property.
The procedure under section 21 is often known as a ‘no-fault’ eviction. This is because there is no requirement for the landlord to show that the tenant is at fault in any way, providing that the landlord can demonstrate that it has complied with certain prescribed requirements
The section 21 procedure provides comfort to landlords where, for example, they need to sell the rented property, but the tenant does not agree to leave voluntarily and is not in breach of the terms of their tenancy agreement. It can often be a quicker process as it often does not require attendance at Court.
The Renters (Reform) Bill aims to abolish evictions under section 21 and to amend the grounds that can currently be relied upon under section 8. In doing so, it would provide greater protection for tenants but remove some of the current protection available for landlords.
| Current Position
The government acknowledged that the court system is not currently equipped to deal with the new proposals.
Reduction in court staff has led to unprecedented delays in processing requests for possession (both under section 21 and section 8). One court in London recently told us they were working through a 17-week backlog to deal with communications sent to the Court. At a different court, we experienced a 4-month delay waiting for a hearing date for a section 8 application!
We expect that the court reforms will include a move towards dealing with possession claims online to speed up the processing time. No timescales have been provided for when those reforms are likely to take place. It appears for now that the current position is that the Renters (Reform) Bill will not come into force until the Court reforms have taken place. Whilst the suggested delays have caused frustration amongst tenants, they do offer some comfort to landlords.
If you are a residential landlord and would like more information about evicting your tenant, call us on 0800 988 7756.