For private landlords, the key change outlined in the government’s response is the proposed removal of ‘no fault’ evictions. The position for landlords in the social housing sector is less clear and will only be revealed in a further government consultation.
If the proposed legislation comes to pass, it would remove the landlord’s power to evict tenants without having to prove any breach of tenancy. Instead, they would need to prove some form of breach of the tenancy or other narrow statutory ground in order to start eviction proceedings.
It should be acknowledged that the aims of this change are positive, and the housing challenges the nation faces have, over the years, been exacerbated to an extent by the insecurity of short-term tenancy agreements.
But, while that is true, the impact of removing this right could have damaging consequences. For private landlords, it could seriously impact their ability to remove tenants easily if needed or to change the function of a property that, let’s not forget, they own to suit their needs.
The benefit of the current legislation is that it allows landlords to manage their properties flexibly and address breach of tenancy issues swiftly, sometimes to the benefit of the community. Issues with tenants who fail to make rent payments or become anti-social can be dealt with quickly without complex legal proceedings.
The proposals will probably see the balance of power shift significantly in favour of tenants and away from landlords. While empowering renters is certainly not a bad thing, this particular move will probably result in more landlords being forced to resort to potentially more complex eviction procedures.
On paper, Section 8 of the 1988 Housing Act provides landlords with a shorter route to eviction should the changes go through, but they come with an onus on the landlord to prove that the tenant has breached their tenancy agreement and, therefore, are contestable in court.
If contested, these evictions will take six-to-12 months for the courts to process. An increase in the number of these cases will put more strain on the legal system and, ultimately, put more landlords and tenants through drawn-out court proceedings.
In recognition of this, the idea has been mooted by government to introduce specialist housing courts and amend Section 8 to allow easier evictions for those who want to sell or move into their property. But little detail has been shared on how this might work in practice.
The removal of ‘no fault’ evictions has the potential to make life difficult for landlords. How difficult that life is will depend on how prepared they are. Robust contracts with tenants (tenancy agreements) will be essential, and landlords must ensure all mandatory grounds for possession are available under their tenancy agreements. For supported housing, using licenses rather than tenancies can also help the provider of accommodation to retain more control.
In all cases, robust procedures should be adopted to ensure that evictions, when required, are dealt with effectively and quickly.