The end of ‘no fault’ eviction

The word ‘eviction’ has some negative connotations. It can bring to mind people being forced to leave their homes, or having to leave because they did something wrong. However, serving eviction notices can be simply an amicable, legal way of ending a tenancy. Moreover, the Government plans to introduce changes to eviction law that would end problematic ‘no fault’ evictions.

What does eviction really mean?

Using an eviction notice is often the required, or at least the most transparent and professional, method of ending a tenancy. An eviction notice clearly communicates a landlord’s intentions to end a tenancy and helps to ensure minimum notice periods are adhered to. 

Landlords can humanise the eviction process by communicating respectfully with their tenants. For example, a landlord might speak with a tenant before sending an eviction notice to explain their motivations and any alternate options (eg signing a new tenancy agreement). This prevents tenants from being taken by surprise when they receive an eviction notice. 

The main types of Eviction notices in England and Wales are enabled by particular sections of the Housing Act 1988. They are: 

  • a Section 21 notice – also known as a ‘no fault’ eviction notice
  • a Section 8 notice – notices that can be used to evict a tenant during a fixed-term tenancy (or otherwise), based on one of the specified grounds (eg because the tenant is in rent arrears or has damaged the property)

When ending a tenancy, other legal documents can also help the process to run smoothly. For example, using a Property inspection report can help tenants and landlords to communicate about and clearly set out the state of a property and its contents at the start and end of a tenancy.

The end of ‘no fault evictions’

What are no-fault evictions?

No fault eviction refers to the use of a section 21 notice to evict a tenant without the landlord needing to give the tenant a reason for the eviction. Section 21 notices can only be used at the end of a fixed-term tenancy or to end a periodic tenancy. A certain period of notice must be given (ie 2 months in England, sometimes longer in Wales). 

Section 21 notices are problematic as, although some landlords use them respectfully and practically, they can be used abusively. For example, they can be used as leverage when asking tenants to agree to a rent increase.

What’s changing?

The Government has responded to the issues with no fault evictions with a promise to abolish them in England. A white paper was published in June 2022 setting out plans for a Renters’ Reform Bill, which is expected to be introduced during the current Parliamentary session. 

Alongside other positive changes (eg longer notice periods for rent increases), the bill will completely remove section 21 notices as an eviction option. This brings England level with Scotland, which ended no fault evictions in 2017 when the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 introduced a new type of tenancy (private residential tenancies, or PRSs).

The changes will not apply to Wales. Welsh private rental laws are receiving an overhaul anyway via the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. No fault evictions are not being abolished in Wales, but the notice period required for the new version (section 173 notices) is being increased to 6 months. These changes are expected to come into force in Wales in December 2022. To find out more, read What does the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 mean for me?.

What do the changes mean?

The end of no fault eviction is great news for tenants. It reduces the risk of their being evicted for unjust reasons (eg if they demonstrate an intention to enforce a legal right related to the tenancy). Moreover, it reduces the anxiety that many feel with the constant risk of having to move and uproot their lives hanging over them. 

The changes are not bad news for landlords either. Although the change may shift the balance slightly back towards tenants (eg evicting somebody for no reason, even if not malicious, will no longer be possible), not unjustly so. Landlords can still evict tenants using a section 8 notice. This requires using one of the section 8 ‘grounds for possession’, but these include a range of situations, such as: 

  • allowing the landlord to move into the property as their main residence (Ground 1)
  • the tenant has been in rent arrears for a certain period (Ground 8)
  • the tenant has damaged the property (Ground 13)

Moreover, the Renters’ Reform Bill intends to introduce new grounds for possession, including that the landlord intends to sell the property or that the tenant is persistently in rent arrears. 

 

For more information on how to legally and respectfully end a tenancy, read Ending a periodic tenancy, Repossessing property (section 21 notices), Repossessing property (section 8 notices), Repossessing property in Wales, Tenant eviction, and What does the Renters Reform Bill mean for me?. You can also Ask a lawyer for help if you have any questions or concerns.

India Hyams

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