The government has commenced a consultation on abolishing s.21 notices and improving the implementation of section 8 notices.
In April this year the government announced that it would end s.21 evictions. This would see landlords unable to end tenancies without giving a reason and require them to follow the s.8 process where evidence and reasons for the eviction must be provided. The government appears to be hoping that this move will provide tenants with more stability and protect them from moves to alternative properties at short notice.
This consultation now seeks views on how the s.21 process has been used and the circumstances in which landlords should be able to regain possession once it has been abolished.
Landlords in a variety of forms have responded to previous consultations and expressed their preference for the s.21 process as opposed to the s.8 process to regain possession. The main criticism of the s.8 process is that the existing grounds for possession do not provide enough flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. On the other side tenants consider that the s.21 process leaves them feeling perpetually vulnerable as tenancies can be ended with limited notice.
The government therefore proposes to deliver its plans to remove s.21 by removing the assured shorthold tenancy (AST) regime. S.21 are only served under ASTs which are the most common form of tenancies. So once s.21 notices are abolished there will be no significant legal distinction between ASTs and an assured tenancy.
If the s.21 regime is abolished the government is also committing to enhance s.8 grounds and making the process simpler and faster through the courts. The intention is that wherever there is a current appropriate use for a s.21 notice there will instead be a relevant s.8 ground instead.
Importantly, the consultation is also seeking views on the implications of removing the ability of landlords to grant assured shorthold tenancies in the future, and how the processing of repossession orders through the courts could be improved.
If ASTs are abolished all future tenancies will be assured, either as fixed term assured tenancies or contractual periodic assured tenancies. Under an assured tenancy a tenant may not be evicted unless the landlord provides grounds under s.8.
The consultation also seeks views on whether any assured fixed term tenancy should be for a minimum term and if so, what that term should be. Naturally, a fixed term will only be binding on a tenant as landlords will effectively be offering tenancies that will last as long as the tenant wants them. It is intended that an assured tenancy regime will provide parties with the flexibility to contractually agree on matters such as a minimum fixed term for which the tenant will be bound, break clause and rent increases at the outset.
This consultation will be of great importance to landlords and agents and is likely to get a lot of responses. The consultation is open until 12 October and can be answered using an online survey or by sending in a free text response.