The UK government has confirmed in the Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper that it will outlaw Section 21 under the Renters’ Reform Bill and replace it with Section 8.
The aim of these changes is to make it easier for landlords to reclaim control of their properties.
Landlords will be able to regain possession of their properties from anti-social tenants and sell their properties when they need to.
Landlords can evict their tenants under Section 21 by providing them with two months’ notice once their fixed-term contract has come to an end.
Under Section 21, landlords are not required to provide their tenants with a reason for the eviction, hence the term “no-fault” eviction. In contrast, to serve a Section 8 notice, the landlord has to prove that the tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy agreement.
One of the changes in the Renters' Reform Bill is to remove Section 21 eviction notices, thereby putting an end to “no-fault” evictions and converting all tenancies to periodic.
A periodic tenancy is one that continues for successive periods until the tenant notifies the landlord that he or she wants to end the tenancy. In other words, there will be no set end date on a tenancy.
Once Section 21 has been abolished, landlords will always have to provide their tenants with a valid reason for ending a tenancy, for example, breach of contract or wanting to sell the property. Section 8 ensures that landlords can gain possession of their properties from anti-social tenants.
Tenants will be able to choose to end the tenancy at any time, as long as they provide two months' notice to the landlord.
This new single system for all private rented tenancies when Section 21 is abolished means that there will be no set end date on a tenancy. In some instances, such as the landlord wishing to move into the property or to sell it, landlords will not be able to evict a tenant within the first six months of the contract start date.
The government has said that it will "consider the case" for new or strengthened penalties and it will explore how to support local councils in tackling illegal evictions.
When Section 21 is abolished, the transition to the new system will take place in two stages.
A Section 8 notice is issued to end an assured tenancy and it can help landlords to repossess their rental property. This type of notice is served when a landlord has the authority to regain possession of his or her property, but it can only be issued if certain criteria are breached by the tenant.
This differs from a Section 21 notice, which is commonly known as a "no-fault" eviction.
The government has stated that it aims to reform Section 8 grounds so that they are "comprehensive, fair, and efficient, striking a balance between protecting tenants’ security and landlords’ right to manage their property".
A Section 8 notice can only be issued to a tenant who has breached the terms laid out in the tenancy agreement and if certain conditions have been met, the most common being rent arrears. The Housing Act 1988 provides 17 grounds on which a landlord may seek possession before the fixed term of the tenancy has ended.
The landlord cannot evict the tenant without first obtaining an order for possession from a court. Before applying to the court for such an order, the landlord must serve a Section 8 notice to the tenant. The notice states that the landlord intends to seek possession of the property and the reasons or grounds for which possession is sought.
If a landlord wants to move into the property in order to live there, a Section 8 notice can be served to the tenant. There are three provisos to this ground:
The government will introduce a new Section 8 ground for possession when the landlord wants to sell a property. However, landlords will not be able to apply this ground in the first six months of a tenancy.
Landlords can regain control of their property if the tenant has breached the prescribed period of outstanding rental payments.
However, landlords have found this contravention difficult to prove because tenants can reduce their arrears to just below the prescribed threshold. When this occurs, the landlord has to begin the possession claim process from the start.
No matter what the tenant’s arrears balance is at the hearing, the eviction will be enforced if the tenant has been in two months’ arrears on three occasions within the past three years.
The notice period for existing rent arrears eviction ground will increase to four weeks. Tenants who receive welfare payments will be granted more protection (and time) if late welfare payment is the reason they have exceeded the mandatory arrears threshold.
For criminal or serious anti-social behaviour, notice periods will be lowered, and the government will look for ways to provide support to help landlords and tenants resolve any issues at an earlier stage.
You can evict tenants who have an assured shorthold tenancy using a Section 21 or Section 8 notice, or both.
A Section 8 notice is used if your tenants have broken the terms of the tenancy. Before serving a Section 8 notice, try to resolve any disputes with your tenant first. You can work with your tenant to manage rent arrears or you can come to a repayment agreement plan.
You can use a Section 21 notice to evict your tenants either:
Your landlord will serve you with a ‘grounds for possession’ notice if they have a legal reason to terminate your tenancy. The grounds for possession have to be proven in court and this process takes time. It is within the court’s power to stop an eviction.
Most private renters have assured shorthold tenancies. Your landlord may be able to use the Section 21 eviction process instead or as well if you have this tenancy type. An assured shorthold tenancy (AST) is the most common tenancy if you rent from a private landlord or letting agent.
The main feature that makes an assured shorthold tenancy different from other tenancies is that your landlord can evict you without a reason; however, the correct procedure must be followed.
The assured shorthold tenancy contract may be:
Some assured shorthold tenancy contracts have a break clause which allows you to end the contract early by giving notice.
A Section 8 notice must include:
Ground 1: Landlord taking property as their own home
This ground is used when a landlord wants to live in the rental property. It applies when a landlord previously lived in the property as the main home. The notice period is usually 2 months.
Ground 2: Mortgage property
If a property was subject to a mortgage before the start of the lease, and the mortgage lender needs vacant possession of the property in order to sell it, this ground can be used. The notice period is usually 2 months.
Ground 3: Holiday let
This ground is used when the property was used as a holiday let anytime within 12 months of the tenancy starting, and the term of the present tenancy is less than 8 months long. The notice period is usually 2 weeks.
Ground 4: Property let to an educational institution
This ground is used when the property was used as student accommodation anytime within 12 months of the tenancy starting, and the term of the present tenancy is less than 12 months long.
Student accommodation is a lease granted to a person studying at a specified educational institution, and that institution usually owns the property. The notice period is usually 2 weeks.
Ground 5: The property is let to a religious organisation
A property is required for a minister of religion to live in.
Ground 6: Refurbishment
When a landlord wants to reconstruct or carry out significant works on part or all of the property, and the work cannot reasonably be done with the tenant living on the premises, this ground may be used. The landlord is not obliged to find alternative housing for the tenant but has to cover reasonable removal costs. The notice period is usually 2 months.
Ground 7: Death of the tenant
This ground is when the tenant themselves has died and someone else has inherited the tenant. Court proceedings for repossession must start within 12 months of the tenant dying or the landlord becoming aware of the tenant’s death. The notice period is 2 months long.
Ground 7A: Serious anti-social behaviour
This absolute ground for possession applies when one of the conditions below is satisfied. The notice period is 1 month long.
Ground 7B: No right to rent
This ground applies when the landlord has been served a notice by the Home Secretary that one or more of the tenants in the property has no right to rent due to their immigration status. The notice period is 2 weeks.
Ground 8: Serious rent arrears
This ground is used when there is a significant amount of unpaid rent by the date the Section 8 is issued. The notice period is usually 2 weeks. If rent is due weekly or fortnightly, at least 8 weeks’ rent must be unpaid.
If rent is due monthly, at least 2 months’ rent must be unpaid. If rent is due quarterly, at least 3 months’ rent must be unpaid. If rent is due annually, at least 3 months’ rent must be unpaid.
Ground 9: Alternative accommodation
This ground is used when alternative accommodation will be made available to the tenant if an eviction is granted, and the landlord will cover reasonable removal costs. The notice period is usually 2 months but under current COVID-19 laws, it is 4 months long.
Ground 10: Rent arrears
This ground is used when any amount of rent is in arrears on the date the Section 8 Notice is served and the date of the hearing. The notice period is usually 2 weeks.
Ground 11: Persistent late rent
This is a ground for when the tenant has persistently delayed paying rent which has become lawfully due. This ground can be served whether or not any rent is in arrears on the date on which proceedings for possession are begun, and can be served:
Ground 12: A breach of the tenancy agreement excluding rent payment
Ground 12 can be served if there is a breach of the tenancy agreement which means that an obligation of the tenancy (excluding the payment of rent) has been broken. The notice period is 4 months.
Ground 13: Deterioration of the property
The deterioration of the property must be the result of waste, or neglect of the tenant or another person residing on the property. If the deterioration is caused by waste from a sub-tenant or lodger, the tenant must take steps to remove them.
Ground 14: Causing a nuisance or annoyance
Ground 14 is used when the tenant or a person residing or visiting the property has been guilty of causing or likely to cause a nuisance to the landlord. Ground 14 can also be served if the tenant or a visitor is caught using the property for immoral or illegal purposes. The proceedings for evicting a tenant under ground 14 may be commenced immediately after service of notice.
Ground 14A can be served with 2 weeks’ notice and can be used for social tenancies where one partner has left and is unlikely to return because of violence or threats of violence by the other partner.
Ground 14ZA can be served with 2 weeks’ notice when the tenant has been convicted of an indictable offence that took place at the scene of a riot in the United Kingdom.
Ground 15 can be served with 4 months’ notice if the tenant has deteriorated furniture provided for use under the tenancy.
Ground 16 can be served with 4 months’ notice when the tenant was an employee of the landlord and obtained the property as part of employment, but is no longer an employee.
Ground 17 can be served with 2 weeks’ notice when the tenant has knowingly or recklessly provided a false statement used by the landlord to grant the tenancy.
When serving a section 8 notice, a landlord or agent must fill in a Form 3 specifying the grounds for seeking possession of the property. If multiple grounds are used (excluding ground 14 or 7A), the notice will be the higher of the notice periods relevant to those grounds.
Landlords can then apply to the court for a possession order if the tenants do not leave by the date specified in the served Form 3.
Other grounds that are sometimes used by private landlords include:
There is no minimum notice period with ground 14 for anti-social behaviour. Your landlord could apply to court as soon as they give you the notice.
Yes, landlords can list more than one ground for possession on a Section 8 notice.
If we take the issue of rent arrears again, if a tenant were three months late on payments, the landlord could issue three grounds for possession:
Ground 8 is the only mandatory reason. In many cases, this could lead to eviction. However, if the tenant were able to pay back one month’s worth of rent, they would be below the threshold for mandatory grounds for possession.
This leaves grounds 10 and 11—both discretionary reasons for possession. In these instances, the court will take other circumstances into consideration to decide whether or not the tenant should be evicted. For instance, if the tenant had lost their job or there had been delays in Housing Benefit payments.
If tenants don’t leave by the date set out in the notice, landlords can formally begin a ‘possession claim’ and take the tenants to court.
If this happens, court papers will be sent, and the landlord will have the opportunity to list their reasons for possession and the tenants can list their reasons for defending it.
The next step is a review of all the paperwork sent by both parties. If this is all in order, a formal possession hearing in court will be scheduled and a decision will usually be made on the same day. If the court rules that tenants must leave, they’ll be given a minimum of 14 days to do so.
For landlords, dealing with defaulting tenants and the expense of eviction can be stressful. However, the financial impact can be tempered with suitable cover. For instance, rent guarantee insurance can help recoup rent arrears and legal expenses can cover the cost of professional advice and court fees.
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