What is a no-fault eviction? A guide for landlords
Since the Housing Act 1988, private landlords have been able to use ‘no-fault evictions’ to repossess their properties, even if there has been no particular problem with the tenant.
Also known as a ‘Section 21 eviction’, the right to repossess a property has given many landlords peace of mind. Ultimately, knowing they can regain possession of their rental property at relatively short notice has given many people the confidence to let it in the first place.
However, no-fault evictions have been criticised over the years. When tenants have a lack of security, it can put them at risk of homelessness. In addition, there have been claims that unscrupulous landlords use Section 21 to intimidate tenants who would otherwise complain about disrepair or poor living conditions.
For these reasons, the government has committed to a Bill ending no-fault evictions in the 2022-23 parliamentary session. Once this has passed into law, landlords’ eviction rights will be significantly different. In this article, we explain how no-fault evictions work currently and take a closer look at the conditions under which evictions will be allowed.
- What is a no-fault eviction?
- Have no-fault evictions been stopped?
- When will no-fault evictions be banned?
- Can landlords evict tenants for no reason?
- How long does a no-fault eviction take?
- On what grounds can tenants be evicted?
- What happens if I want to sell my property?
- What the end of no-fault evictions will mean
What is a no-fault eviction?
Currently, landlords can end an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) by serving a valid Section 21 notice, in writing, on the tenant at any point after the end of a fixed term tenancy. There does not have to be any reason for the eviction. Tenants must be given at least two months’ notice to quit, after which they are legally obliged to leave the rental property.
Have no-fault evictions been stopped?
No-fault evictions haven’t yet been stopped, although doing so was a Conservative Party manifesto commitment in 2019. In June 2022, the government published a white paper called ‘A fairer private rented sector’. The proposals in this white paper, including the abolition of Section 21 evictions, will be introduced to parliament as the Renters Reform Bill.
When will no-fault evictions be banned?
The proposed Renters Reform Bill, which includes abolishing the Section 21 ground for eviction, will be put to Parliament in the 2022-23 session. If the Bill is passed it will become an Act in law shortly thereafter.
Can landlords evict tenants for no reason?
Currently, yes. It’s still possible to serve a valid Section 21 notice that gives tenants at least two months to quit a property. However, the Section 21 notice must be valid. Conditions that make it invalid include when a landlord failed to adhere to the tenant deposit rules, didn’t provide the tenants with a gas safety or energy performance certificate, didn’t give them the How to Rent guide, or served a notice after a complaint about the property (this is known as a ‘retaliatory eviction’).
If a tenant refuses to leave after being served with a valid Section 21 notice, the landlord must then get a court to issue a possession order and potentially obtain a warrant so bailiffs can evict the tenant.
It is also worth bearing in mind that if you have landlord legal expenses insurance (which can assist with the serving of Section notices), most policies will include a stipulation that you must comply with your legal obligations towards your tenants. Landlords are advised to keep evidence of adherence with legislation.
How long does a no-fault eviction take?
Tenants must be given at least two months’ notice of a no-fault eviction, so this is the minimum amount of time the process will take. However, if a tenant refuses to leave after this period the eviction could take much longer. It typically takes nine weeks for the ‘accelerated’ court process to complete (at an extra cost of £355), but it can be longer if the court is particularly busy. Once the court process has been completed it could take an additional four to six weeks for bailiffs to evict the tenant.
On what grounds can tenants be evicted?
Even after no-fault evictions have been abolished, landlords will still be able to end tenancies using a ‘Section 8’ eviction. This allows you to end a tenancy for a number of valid reasons. However, there are proposals within the Renters Reform Bill to reform the grounds for possession, add new grounds, and strengthen grounds for eviction based on persistent rent arrears and anti-social behaviour.
The current Section 8 grounds include:
- Non-payment of rent. Generally speaking, you can start eviction proceedings if a tenant has rent arrears of 8 weeks or more.
- Late-payment of rent. Regular late payment is valid grounds for eviction.
- Lender repossession. This is when the landlord’s mortgage provider repossesses the property because of mortgage arrears.
- Breach of contract. There are many grounds in this category, such as breaching contract terms not to sublet, smoke, or keep pets (however, note that upcoming Renters Reform Bill is likely to allow most tenants to keep pets).
- Antisocial behaviour. This covers everything from regular noise nuisance to using the property for illegal purposes.
- Damage to the property. This is damage that is significantly beyond normal wear and tear such as malicious damage to the property.
- Repairs and development. A landlord can take possession if the property is unsafe or not habitable, or they want to develop the property and can’t provide basic living conditions. However, you can only be asked to move out if there’s no other way repairs or development can be done.
- False statements. If a tenant has lied or supplied false information during their tenancy application, they can be evicted.
For full details of the mandatory and discretionary grounds for repossession, please see our detailed guide to Section 8.
What happens if I want to sell my property?
Unless there are already grounds for serving a Section 8 notice where the tenant has breached the tenancy agreement, at the moment landlords can serve a Section 21 notice if they want to sell the property.
However, the government’s new rental reforms will “introduce a new ground for landlords who wish to sell their property and allow landlords and their close family members to move into a rental property”. While detailed proposals have not yet been published, landlords will have to provide tenants with two months’ notice, and they will not be able to use these new grounds during the first six months of a tenancy.
What the end of no-fault evictions will mean
When no-fault evictions are outlawed in the near future, it will make it harder for landlords to evict tenants. It will still be possible to evict tenants under Section 8 for valid reasons such as non-payment of rent or damage to your property. In addition, changes to Section 8 will allow landlords to repossess their home if they want to sell it, or if they or close family wish to move into it.
If you need to evict a tenant for negligence or other valid causes, legal expenses and rent guarantee insurance can help you mitigate any losses. This policy provides you with 24/7 access to a legal helpline and will also assist with repossessing a property and serving Section notices. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch with our landlord insurance team today on 01603 216399.