Landlords under pressure amid calls to ban evicting tenants without a reason

Landlords would be forgiven for recoiling in horror at calls for an end to Section 21 notices.

Section 21 is a clause of the Housing Act 1998 that allows private landlords to evict tenants without providing a reason.

The notices play a key role in landlords successfully running their property portfolios. For example, a landlord may need to evict a tenant so that they can more easily sell a property in order to raise some extra cash.

But calls have been made for Section 21 notices to be banned. In particular, the London Assembly wants the London Mayor to back a campaign to abolish them and to lobby the Government for a change in the law.

Where would this leave landlords?

At the moment, it’s unclear what would happen if Section 21 notices were banned. However, what has happened in Scotland may prove some clues.

Major tenancy reforms were introduced in Scotland at the end of last year, with the packages of measures including contracts having no end date. This means a landlord is no longer able to ask a tenant to leave simply because the fixed term has ended.

Instead, the tenancy is left open-ended, with landlords being able to regain possession in only a set number of circumstances - and they must use what is called a ‘notice to leave’ if they want the tenant to vacate the property.

These permitted circumstances include where the property has been abandoned or where the landlord intends to sell.

Could landlords face 84 day notice periods?

However, while this still gives landlords something to use when they need tenants to leave a property, it could cause far more headaches than the current system.

In Scotland, landlords must give tenants who have lived in the property for more than six months at least 84 days’ notice to leave. If you need to sell in a hurry, three months could be far too long a wait.

The changes in Scotland also saw it become impossible for rents to be increased more than once a year. There must be three months’ notice of any rise and any rent increase can be referred to a rent officer who can decide if they are fair.

What will happen in place of Section 21 notices?

Regulators in England and Wales will undoubtedly be watching to see how the new measures settle in and may decide that they form the basis of changes here. However, landlords will be relieved to hear that some lenders have threatened to pull out of the buy-to-let market if similar changes are introduced in England.

The Government has already vowed to take action to curb so-called ‘revenge evictions’ against tenants who complain about the state of their homes, while housing secretary James Brokenshire has gone on record saying he wants to introduce minimum tenancies of three years, with a six-month break clause.

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