The government will ban landlords from evicting tenants at short notice without providing a reason, it announced today, as it continues its shake-up of the private rental sector.
The move was applauded by campaign groups for giving renters security and a ban has cross-party support, but landlords said it could mean riskier tenants find it much harder to find a place to live.
Controversial Section 21 evictions allow landlords in Britain’s 4.5m-strong private rental sector to turf out tenants after the end of their contract without specifying a reason and with only eight weeks’ notice.
So-called no-fault evictions have long been criticised by campaign groups and politicians who say they give landlords too much power and are a leading cause of homelessness.
Today the government said its ban on the method of eviction will mean landlords can only remove tenants with legitimate legal reasons, for example if they fail to pay the rent or are anti-social.
The announcement comes just weeks before a law comes into force that will ban the majority of letting fees and cap tenancy deposits at five weeks’ rent, which the government says will save renters in England £240m a year.
Communities secretary James Brokenshire said: “We are making the biggest change to the private rental sector in a generation.” He said people should have “the security and stability to make a place truly feel like home without the fear of being evicted at a moments’ notice”.
However, landlords warned that today’s proposals could damage the supply of properties if owners lose confidence that they can repossess properties quickly for legitimate reasons.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said it can take over five months to repossess a property after applying to the courts. Government statistics show the median time repossession takes is 20 weeks.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA said: “There are serious dangers of getting such reforms wrong.”
With demand for private rented properties outstripping supply, he said, landlords need to “have confidence to invest in new homes.”
He said: “This means ensuring they can swiftly repossess properties for legitimate reasons such as rent arrears, tenant anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell them. This needs to happen before any moves are made to end Section 21.”
Ministers said that legislation will be altered and court processes sped up so owners are able to regain their property if they want to sell or move into it and can recover it quickly if tenants stop paying the rent.
The changes would effectively create open-ended tenancies, meaning renters could stay on past their original contract date so long as they kept to the rules.
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “This change will slam the brakes on unstable short-term tenancies and give tenants everywhere a massive boost in security, for which the government will deserve great credit.”
Nationwide’s director of home propositions, Paul Wootton, said: “Removing the uncertainty and insecurity caused by short term tenancies and the constant threat of eviction is an important step in creating a modern private rented sector.”
“It will be important to ensure more efficient court processes are put in place to help support a reformed eviction process,” he said.