By Lynne Swanson, Legal Executive, Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors.
A Section 21 notice is a legal mechanism through which landlords can evict a tenant at the conclusion of a tenancy period, without any reason other than that the lease has reached its end. It is currently one of two approaches landlords can take, the other of which is a Section 8 notice.
These eviction notices are applicable to different circumstances, and give landlords significant flexibility and control over the properties they own. Last year, however, the UK government proposed measures to remove Section 21 notices and prevent landlords from using them.
This could make significant changes to the rights of landlords and how they manage their properties, along with the provisions they include in tenancy agreements and the lease terms they offer. Limited progress has been seen on this bill since it was announced, but there is no reason to believe that it will not move forwards.
There have already been many changes to the rights of landlords and tenants over the last three years. A lot of changes were made when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, to protect vulnerable tenants during a financially turbulent time, and even many of those that were intended to be temporary were later enacted permanently.
The removal of Section 21 evictions was an additional measure that was proposed at this time. It has not yet gone into effect, but it is important for landlords to understand how this significant change to their rights could affect them, and prepare appropriately.
Here, the experts in landlord and tenant law at Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors will explain how Section 21 notices currently function, the restrictions that would apply to landlords if this mechanism was removed, and the alternative methods upon which landlords can continue to rely in order to carry out evictions.
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What is a Section 21 notice and what will happen when it is removed?
A landlord can serve a Section 21 notice when their agreement with a tenant comes to an end. The tenant does not need to have done anything wrong, and the landlord does not need to justify their decision to carry out the eviction in order for the process to be legally valid.
Naturally, this gives landlords more control over tenancies and allows them the freedom to renegotiate terms at the end of a lease period, but it can also mean that tenants are forced to leave a property unexpectedly.
To combat this problem, landlords need to give tenants at least two month’s notice to leave the property as part of a Section 21 eviction notice. Under rare circumstances, the notice period may be longer, and this is designed to give tenants time to make alternative accommodation arrangements.
Even so, if the tenant has behaved according to the terms of their agreement, they may not expect to be evicted without the opportunity to renew the lease. Preventing the financial and emotional difficulties that can arise in these situations is the reason that the government first proposed removing this mechanism from the law.
There are many potential consequences that may arise for landlords as a result of Section 21 notices being removed, but we can only speculate on these until the bill is published or enacted.
Nevertheless, the only way for landlords to ensure that they can respond to this change in the law effectively is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst; thankfully, with a clear idea of what they want to achieve, landlords can speak to a solicitor with expertise in landlord and tenant law and learn how they can achieve their aims while remaining within the law.
Here, we will discuss some of the areas that may be affected – if you are concerned that you will be affected by any of these areas, stay on top of the changes to the law and contact a solicitor if necessary, for advice tailored to your circumstances.
The most important change that would almost certainly be effected by the revised law is that landlords would need to rely on one of 27 legal grounds to evict a tenant. If they fail to do so, the tenant may be empowered to take legal action against them, meaning that there can be serious consequences unless the eviction process is followed to the letter of the law.
This is because the only remaining mechanism through which landlords could carry out evictions would be Section 8 notices.
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How will landlords evict tenants without Section 21?
A section 8 notice enables landlords to evict tenants under circumstances where the tenant has broken the tenets of their lease, or where there are legal grounds to do so. While there are too many such legal grounds to list, some of the grounds that landlords can rely on to carry out eviction proceedings currently include:
- Rental arrears of at least two months’ rent, or persistent failure to pay rent on time.
- Damage or neglect to the property caused by the tenant.
- Repossession by the property’s mortgage lender.
- Use of the property for illegal or immoral purposes.
- The tenant inherited the lease and is not named in the agreement.
It is usually better if landlords can rely on multiple grounds for eviction rather than just one – for example, if a tenant can pay off all or part of the rent they owe, the landlord’s grounds for the eviction under rental arrears may no longer be valid.
If you are a landlord who wants to remove a tenant from your property, discuss the circumstances with a legal expert. Not only can they advise you on the relevant grounds and the approach you should take in order to successfully claim back possession of the property, their expertise can also help you to ensure that you meet all of the legal requirements of the eviction process. If you fail to do this, there can be significant consequences; tenants may be able to take legal action against you, and you may even fail to successfully carry out the eviction.