After years of delay from its original announcement in 2019, the Renters (Reform) Bill 2023 was finally introduced in Parliament on 17th May. The Bill, which promises to be the biggest shake up to the residential landlord and tenant sector in a decade, seeks to introduce a number of long-awaited measures to protect tenants from unfair eviction and strike a better balance of protection and power between tenants and landlords.
(Please note – this Bill has not yet been implemented and has not yet taken effect – discussed further at the end of this article).
What will it change?
Perhaps the most headline-grabbing change will be the abolishing of Section 21 no-fault evictions. Historically, landlords have been able to provide 2 months’ notice to their residential tenants at the end of their Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) Agreements . This has meant that tenants have been evicted from their homes, even if they have not given their landlord a reason to do so. Tenants and campaigners have long been campaigning to abolish Section 21 notices to prevent unnecessary upheaval to families. It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million tenants in the UK of privately rented residential property.
The scrapping of Section 21 notices will mean that landlords will no longer be able to evict their tenants unless they have valid reasons that comply with Section 8 legislation.
What is a Section 8 notice and how will I be able to evict my tenant?
Section 8 notices rely on a reason to evict tenants – and they will now be the primary method of a landlord getting possession of their property back.
The typical reasons relied upon in Section 8 notices tend to be because the tenant is in rent arrears, or is a nuisance tenant exhibiting anti-social behaviour at the Property or disturbing their neighbours.
There are numerous grounds to be relied upon with Section 8 notices and these will also be updated with this new Bill – to ensure that landlords can find it easier to evict their tenants when they have cause to do so now that Section 21 notices are being scrapped
What changes are being made to Section 8 notices to help landlords?
The Bill sets out the changes coming to Section 8 notices.
The Bill makes it easier for the landlord to regain possession of their property when they intend on moving back into the property themselves. It appears that Ground 1 is extended to assist with this.
If the landlord wants the property back for their own use, this Ground can be relied upon under a Section 8 notice as long as the person occupying the property moving forward is going to be:
A relationship of the half-blood is to be treated as a relationship of the whole blood. In the case of joint landlords seeking possession, references to “the landlord” in this ground are to be read as references to at least one of those joint landlords.”
Further protections have been introduced for landlords looking to sell the Property, as long as the tenancy has been in place for 6 months and the sale is genuine.
Perhaps the most commonly relied upon Section 8 reason is rent arrears. Landlords are receiving greater protections and an amendment to the Grounds for rent arrears has been implemented:
Within a three year period ending with the date of service of the notice under section 8— if rent is payable monthly, at least two months’ rent was unpaid for at least a day on at least three separate occasions, or if rent is payable for a period shorter than a month, at least eight weeks’ rent was unpaid for at least a day on at least three separate occasions.
However, the notice period has been extended from 2 weeks to 4 weeks, which will not be welcomed. Overall, the changes in respect of rent arrears will make it easier to exhibit historical rent arrears issues from tenants for landlords to rely upon and it is hoped the Court will make them a priority for listing Hearings.
Tenant’s anti-social behaviour has also received attention, and it is understood that the list of disruptive and harmful activities will be widened:
Amendments of Ground 14: anti-social behaviour - In Ground 14, in each of paragraphs (a) and (aa), for “likely to cause” substitute “capable of causing”.
The Bill makes a number of further changes, including proposals on rent increases, a landlord Ombudsman and further financial penalties to landlords for failing to comply with their obligations. The Bill can be found here (although be warned – it is almost 90 pages!):
Will new tenancies still be Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST’s)?
The simple answer is no. By scrapping the Section 21 notice provision, the Government is looking to create secure tenancies for tenants to reside in as long as they like. AST’s have a term, typically 12 months. As the landlord will not be able to bring these new tenancies to an end without either serving a valid Section 8 notice or with the tenant’s agreement, there is no need to have a ‘fixed term’ as such. Tenancies moving forward, once the legislation is implemented, will be periodic tenancies.
How has this news been received by the general public?
There have been a number of landlord organisations raising concerns over the Bill. Critics worry that these measures will unfairly punish landlords, forcing them to sell-up or evict their tenants under Section 21 notices while they still can before these proposals become law.
Supporters of the Bill argue that these are overdue protections to families at a time where renters are struggling financially more than ever.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove said:
“Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them. This Government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a New Deal to those living in the Private Rented Sector; one with quality, affordability, and fairness at its heart.
Our new laws introduced to Parliament today will support the vast majority of responsible landlords who provide quality homes to their tenants, while delivering our manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions. This will ensure that everyone can live somewhere which is decent, safe and secure – a place they’re truly proud to call home”.
Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of Generation Rent, said that the bill could be a “” to improve the lives of 11 million people who rent from landlords in England.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said it welcomed the pledge to ensure landlords can “swiftly recover” properties from anti-social tenants or those failing to pay rent.
When is this happening? Does it apply straight away?
NO! It is important to understand that the Bill has not yet gone through the formal Parliamentary procedure it needs to go through to become law. It will, at some stage, be passed and become an Act, however this is not expected to occur until next year at the earliest.
At that stage, an implementation date and timescales for when it will be introduced and from what date it will take effect will be announced. There are no clear timescales to report on at this stage, however we will provide new content on this when we hear further.
Specialist Landlord and Tenant advice
Here at Porter Dodson we have a dedicated Property Disputes team who specialise in this area of law. Will Bartley, who authors a monthly property-related Q&A on our website, would be happy to assist with enquiries of this nature. The team can assist you by drafting eviction notices, Court Proceedings, and representing you at Court Hearings. If you have a landlord and tenant enquiry, or wish to seek advice on another area of Property Disputes, please get in touch.
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