Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech announced the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill and consequently we learned a little more about what it will address, including the much-anticipated reform of Section 21 evictions.
Section 21 no fault evictions were recently back in the news with the statistic that every 7 minutes a tenant is being served with an eviction notice despite no reason for the eviction being given.
Section 21 notices have been much criticised. Where there is an assured shorthold tenancy, a Section 21 notice allows a landlord to give 2 month’s notice on a tenant to leave a property without having to give a reason. In effect the notice itself cannot evict a tenant: it simply means that a landlord can then seek an Order for Possession from the court, but it is certainly the first step to achieving an end to the tenancy and evicting the tenant.
And this is, of course, a worry to tenants, especially in this current climate where house prices are still rising and a landlord may wish to try and sell a previously let property with vacant possession.
At PLG we firmly believe that rental is the best option to provide a bridge between the accommodation that the client was in originally and their forever home. But the possible uncertainty that notices such as these bring can be problematic. We know that we are already dealing with a vulnerable client for whom the distress and trauma of eviction could be devastating. It is a very sensitive issue for anyone who is just putting their life back together. Although we are reassured that a Court has the final say on whether a Section 21 notice can lead to an order for possession and is less likely to evict a vulnerable or injured person, no one wants to have the stress of going through proceedings such as this.
At PLG we do our utmost to protect our clients from facing this type of notice in the first place by doing due diligence on the landlord and ensuring that any tenancy agreement is as watertight as possible. We find that most landlords see the benefits of having a tenant who has a guaranteed income stream and is therefore less likely to fall into arrears. This is especially the case in this era of inflation and a rising cost of living which may mean that for those without the guarantee of an income stream, rent cannot be afforded and arrears mount up. In our experience, most landlords are not plotting to evict good tenants who pay their rent, under a Section 21 notice. But we are always alive to the fact that it can happen.
So, we are pleased to see that there is likely to be reform to section 21 in the new Bill. In return the Bill promises possession grounds for landlords, introducing new and stronger grounds for repeated incidences of rent arrears and reducing notice periods for anti-social behaviour, ensuring that they can regain their property efficiently when needed.
Key to the success of this Bill will be striking a balance between the landlord and the tenant. The last thing that is needed in the current overheated rental market, are even fewer properties available for rent. So where there are serious arrears or where there is anti-social behaviour the landlord needs to be able to have the ability to regain possession of his or her property. But equally the tenant should be offered protection from irresponsible landlords.
At PLG we are seeing that there is already a shortage of properties to rent so whilst we welcome this Bill to bring clarity and transparency to the rental market, we will watch with interest to see if any of the new provisions will disincentivise landlords creating a shortage within the private rented sector which in turn could affect the ability of our clients to be able to find suitable rented accommodation and move on with their lives.