Section 21 & What It Means For Landlords

If you’re a landlord who has ever needed to evict a tenant from one of your properties, there’s a good chance that you will have used the 1988 Section 21 Housing Act. Often referred to as “no-fault” evictions, Section 21 has long been the go-to process for landlords seeking possession of their property.

You've likely spent some time worrying about Section 21 lately. With its abolition first proposed back in 2019, it seems that the government is now taking steps to follow through. This will lead to Section 21 being brushed aside while a new framework for evictions and repossessions is created.

June 2022 saw the publication of the white paper “A Fairer Private Rented Sector” and this caused a sense of panic in some circles. However, what does losing the Section 21 Housing Act really mean for landlords and is there anything to worry about? Let’s take a look.

How Section 21 is used right now

As it stands, the majority of tenancies in England and Wales are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs). With an AST in place, Section 21 allows a landlord to evict a tenant and reclaim their property. The landlord must give two months' notice and must have complied with the likes of providing the tenant with an energy performance certificate (EPC) along with the How to Rent guide.

Assuming that the landlord has complied with what’s required at the beginning of a tenancy, Section 21 allows them to evict a tenant without needing to provide a reason. There is no need to show that a tenant has in any way breached the tenancy agreement and that is why the term “no-fault eviction” is widely used.

What is the issue with Section 21?

The clear issue here is that tenants can be evicted with relative ease (although that’s not to say that it won’t require a court appearance or the use of bailiffs). The fact that a tenant can be required to leave for no reason leaves them living in fear. Even though legislation was brought in to stop revenge evictions, tenants still feel afraid to complain about maintenance, and other issues, in case this leads to them being told to leave.

Of course, this sense of fear heightens when children are involved. Families try and establish roots and connections. Schools are started and friendships are formed, but there is always that risk that eviction is looming.

When can we expect to see the end of Section 21?

The Section 21 Housing Act can’t just disappear overnight. That means that landlords have the time to bring themselves up to speed and adjust to the impending change. Before this, and other changes can be implemented, the Renters Reform Bill will need to be considered in the House of Commons.

There is, as yet, no set date for when Section 21 will be no more. It has taken considerable time to reach the white paper stage and it’s likely to take at least as long again before any legislative changes come into being. Realistically, landlords are likely to have at least two years to prepare themselves, and possibly as long as even four years. Even when it does become law, it is very unlikely to be immediately applied to all current tenancies - it is most likely to only apply to new tenancies which commence after the change in law.

How will landlords be able to evict tenants without Section 21 Housing Act?

As it stands, Section 21 is not the only section of the Housing Act 1988 that can be used to evict a tenant. Landlords are also able to use Section 8 to gain possession of their property. As it stands, this is generally only used to evict when there are substantial rental arrears.

The good news for landlords is that, with Section 21 gone, Section 8 would be reviewed and strengthened. This would be so that a balance was reached between treating tenants fairly and also ensuring that landlords have a degree of protection. It is proposed that additional grounds will be added to Section 8 which will allow a Landlord to terminate a tenancy for the following reasons:

  • If a landlord wants to sell the property
  • If a landlord wishes to make substantial changes to the property e.g. redevelop, fully refurbish a property
  • If a landlord, or member of their family  wishes to live in the property.
In that we only deal with professional, decent and genuine landlords, the above makes up 99% of the reasons why any of our landlords would use Section 21.
Part of the reforms could lead to the establishment of a Housing Court. This court would make it easier, and faster, for landlords to start the process where they can settle disputes or repossess their property.

What will the overall impact be?

There has, in certain circles, been a degree of scaremongering when it comes to the loss of Section 21. This scaremongering is, in our view, unjustified and unhealthy for the private rented sector as a whole. The fact that Section 8 is likely to address two common issues that Section 21 is currently used for (where a landlord wants to sell or move into a property themselves), there doesn’t appear to be a great deal to fear from the proposed changes.

What there will be a need for is landlords, or their agents, to be fully up to date with exactly what the reforms bring. By having knowledge of the legislation, or the backing of an agent who does, you can still protect your property, and your income.

While the media seems to be creating a frenzy about the rights of tenants, the reality is that proposed changes are seeking to achieve a balance. Yes, tenants deserve a greater level of security, but it has not been said that it has to be at the detriment of the protections in place for a landlord.

In short, we do not feel that law-abiding, honest landlords have anything to fear from this change. You will still be able to get your property back if you need it and there are still suitable provisions in place to ensure compliance from a tenant.