Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is a legal provision that allows landlords in England and Wales to evict tenants without having to prove that they are at fault. This type of eviction is known as a 'no fault' eviction, and it has become a contentious issue in recent years. Critics argue that it leaves tenants vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords, while supporters claim that it is necessary to provide flexibility to landlords and protect their property rights. In this blog post, we will explore what Section 21 means for tenants and landlords, and what no fault eviction could mean in the UK.
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 enables private sector landlords in England and Wales to evict tenants at the end of a fixed-term tenancy or during a periodic tenancy (i.e., one that runs weekly or monthly, and which carries on indefinitely) without having to provide a reason. This means that landlords can evict tenants, even if they have not breached any terms of their tenancy agreement.
The existence of Section 21 means that tenants in England and Wales who rent from a private sector landlord face the risk of eviction at any time, with just two months' notice, even if they have always paid their rent on time and maintained the property to a good standard. This poses a significant risk to tenants' security of tenure, making it difficult for them to plan for their future or put down roots in their community.
From a landlord's perspective, Section 21 provides flexibility, enabling them to evict tenants at the end of a fixed-term tenancy if they wish to sell the property, move in themselves, or rent it out to new tenants at a higher rent. It also provides them with reassurance that they can regain possession of their property without having to go through a lengthy legal process.
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The government announced in 2019 that it planned to scrap Section 21, but to date, no concrete action has been taken. In the Queen's Speech in 2022, the government committed to introducing a Bill during the 2022/2023 session and, although none has yet been put forward there is a lot in the news at the moment about this proposed change.
If Section 21 is scrapped, landlords may only be able to evict tenants if they can demonstrate that they have breached the terms of their tenancy agreement including being in rent arrears. This would provide greater security of tenure for tenants, making it easier for them to plan their future and put down roots in their community. However, it may make it more difficult for landlords to regain possession of their property due to the time and cost involved in going through the legal process.
Section 21 has been a controversial legal provision that has allowed private sector landlords to evict tenants without a reason or fault. No fault eviction has been increasingly criticised for leaving tenants vulnerable and impacting their security of tenure. The government has proposed scrapping Section 21, but it remains to be seen what will replace it, and when this will take place. In the meantime, tenants and landlords are advised to familiarise themselves with their rights and obligations under the existing legislation.