A pandemic to a cost-of-living crisis. With high demand for rentals, and a stark increase in landlord possession claims, up nearly 90% on last year’s figures, Covid-19 is no longer an excuse for not paying rent, and the County Courts are exceptionally busy. There are, after all, 13 million tenants living in privately rented accommodation in the UK, almost half of whom are under the age of 35.

Housing Act 1988

You may be familiar with sections 8 and 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Parliament is again considering the abolition of the latter and the ‘no-fault’ eviction to offer greater security for private tenants.

Section 21 procedure allows landlords to serve Notice on tenants without reason and, having satisfied other criteria, use the accelerated possession procedure to recover possession. The Renters Reform Bill and a White Paper entitled “A Fairer Private Rented Sector” were published in June 2022. However, the government first published its response to its consultation paper in April 2019. Still, they have promised to introduce the Bill within the Spring 2023 parliamentary session.

What will happen?

If Section 21 is repealed, the landlord will need to rely on Section 8 and its mandatory and discretionary grounds to evict tenants. The proposed reforms will include the introduction of new mandatory grounds, e.g. repeated serious arrears, and revision to existing ones e.g. intended sale or moving close family into the property, although the grounds will not be able to be relied upon in the first six months of a tenancy. The existing mandatory ground relating to arrears of at least two months will be retained.

The mass overhaul of the current regime would seek to ensure that well-maintained properties are lettable by tenants, who themselves might contest rent increases and unfair practice, subjecting landlords properties to specific disrepair standards. Periodic or ‘rolling tenancies’ would replace Assured Shorthold Tenancies.

Litigation Solicitors Portsmouth

Not only will the reforms encompass the potential reclaim of rent in substandard properties, but they will also curb discrimination towards benefit recipients. Even pets will be addressed, albeit an automatic right for tenants to keep pets is likely to remain subject to the nature of the occupation. Online claims will continue, but landlords will need to register on a new property portal, with powers to be granted to councils to take action against those who don’t. An Ombudsman scheme will also be introduced.

Given the history of the eviction process, this makes for an interesting time. There is no doubt still some uncertainty over the reforms, but what is clear is that solid legal advice will be key.

Asaph Glass is a Litigation Solicitor at Larcomes. For advice on possession matters or assistance with litigation matters generally, please contact Asaph on 02392 448152 or at asaph.glass@larcomes.co.uk.