The government has now released its long awaited paper in relation to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, the provision by virtue of which a landlord is able to obtain possession of a property on a no fault basis.
Whilst the aim of Section 21 was to assist those landlords in obtaining possession of property where it was a requirement that the property be sold for example; the reality was that a number of landlords utilised the Section 21 process when removing problematic tenants where the full requirements within a Section 8 Ground had not been fulfilled; or alternatively a tenant may have complained about the condition of the property, and Section 21 was used as a retaliatory eviction.
Whilst there have been some changes in the law in recent years to attend to some of these issues, the issue remains that Section 21 was not considered to be a useful process, and it was considered that a tenant should be granted with further rights, over and above that which Section 21 attended to.
The consultation paper as produced however goes much further than simply attending to the issue of Section 21, and hints at the total abolishment of Assured Shorthold Tenancies. Whilst there is the fall back of Assured Tenancies, these themselves have other obligations attached to them, which have not been considered; and would make it much harder for landlords to be able to remove tenants.
Fixed term tenancies are still offered, but without the ability to use Section 21, a landlord is effectively providing a tenancy that can only be brought to an end where there is a breach on the part of the tenant, and this could create huge issues for them, particularly if it is necessary for their portfolio of properties to change over a period of time.
As a benefit however the consultation does look at making the Section 8 process simpler, looking at retaining an accelerated procedure for some of the grounds under Section 8 (which we suspect will relate to rent arrears); and streamlining the processes to ensure that you are within Court within a fixed period of time (albeit there are already guidelines in that regard which are not met in some circumstances).
There should however be some comfort for landlords, in that the consultation does look at expanding Section 8; to enable possession to be obtained for properties to be utilised for members of the landlord's family; adding in an new ground where the property is to be sold; and reducing the mandatory requirement for there being two months arrears to only one month’s arrears should Notices be issued on the basis of rent arrears alone.
The consultation paper is now available for all to consider, and you are able to make representations in relation to that consultation paper in the next 12 weeks, with the consultation period closing on 12 October 2019. Whether you are a tenant, a landlord, or other individual involved in the lettings business, the consultation paper is a must read, with a view to comments being provided. To assist a link to the consultation paper can be found here.