As a parting shot from resigning Prime Minister, Theresa May, the UK Government is launching a 12-week consultation on Tenancy Law Reform in England. It is thought the outcome will be a report setting out in detail some major changes – what the Government policy will be on renting going forward.
The Government has already said it wants to prevent private landlords from evicting tenants at short notice, and without good reason. So the no-fault Section 21 eviction process is likely to go, if not be drastically amended.
It has said it will amend the Section 8 eviction procedure and expedite the court process so that landlords are able to swiftly and smoothly regain their property where tenants fall into rent arrears or cause damage. However, given the state of the county court system, many experts are sceptical that this can be achieved with the current setup.
Any such change as suggested would mean a fairly drastic amendment to the 1988 Housing Act, in effect removing the 30 years-old Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) regime from the legislation, in order to abolish the Section 21 eviction procedure.
Views will be sought on:
What impact will removing ASTs have on the market and landlord and tenants?
Will the reforms include the social rented sector?
When can eviction take place without the tenant being at fault?
How can the grounds for possession be reformed?
What new grounds would be needed?
How can the Section 8 possession procedure be improved by the courts?
A New Deal for Renting Resetting the balance of rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants: A consultation, which can be viewed here
The Government has assured that any changes will not be retrospective – existing tenancies will be unchanged.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is said to be working with the Ministry of Justice on reforms to the court process. This could include using more IT, greater digitalisation and an accelerated procedure.
Separately, there is also a concrete proposal to give tenants access to the blacklisted landlords database under new government plans. This new proposal if implemented would give tenants access to a register which is currently only available to local authorities. It would allow them to search landlords and letting agents by name to check on their track records.
With the effects of the recently implemented tenants’ fees ban yet to be felt, the Government must surely be aware there’s a danger that such rapid change could affect landlord sentiment to the sector negatively at a time when rented accommodation in many parts of the country is in short supply.