Two experts have spelled out the challenges landlords will face when evicting tenants once the Government’s plans to reform the private rented sector become law, most likely late next year.
This will include, crucially, Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions being scrapped.
Landlord Action chiefs Paul Shamplina and Paul Sowerbutts (main picture, LtoR) told a packed webinar that landlords and letting agents removing tenants from properties will have just five tools at their disposal once the Renters Reform Bill becomes law, one of which will be somewhat surprising for some landlords – see below.
Sowerbutts told the webinar that although there will be 33 grounds for evicting a tenant, including 22 mandatory ones, only five will be used by most private sector landlords in practice.
For those unfamiliar with the arcane language of the courts, a ‘mandatory’ ground is where a judge will be compelled to issue a possession warrant as long as the evidence shows the ground or grounds to be valid.
Discretionary grounds are where a judge is given more latitude in deciding whether an eviction take go ahead or not.
The five mandatory grounds will be (please note these are proposals and not yet law):
Grounds 1 and 1a: Selling or moving back into a property.
“You won’t be able to just say you want to sell a property or move in as you can at the moment with Section 21 notices – a landlord will have to provide the court with proof that at least they’ve instructed an agent to sell the property,” said Shamplina.
Sowerbutts added: “On the upside, under Grounds 1 and 1A as they will be known, you won’t have to give ‘prior notice’ of selling the property as you do with Ground 1 now, but on the other hand you won’t be able to evict until the tenancy has run for six months.
“Also, if you sell or move back into the property, you won’t be able to re-let it for three months, although it’s unlikely councils will have the resources to police this aspect of the new legislation – nevertheless there will be a fine of up to £5,000 if you are caught.”
Section 8 - Rent Arrears
“Under the proposals, if a tenant gets into arrears more than three times in three years then a landlord will be able to claim a ‘mandatory ground’ for eviction,” said Shamplina.
Sowerbutts added: “I think this will be reduced to 18 months as the legislation passes through parliament – three years seems a little unfair on tenants who, for example, may have paid their rent consistently but go through a few life-changing events and have temporary financial difficulties”.
Shamplina added: “Remember that one rule that will go forward from Section 21 is that delayed Universal Credit payments will not count as arrears even though, for many landlords, that’s what they are”.
6a – Breach of regulations
Sowerbutts said: “This is a surprising one because it appears that if a landlord doesn’t run a property well and has been served a notice in regard to certain housing offices such as an improvement notices, banning orders or licencing transgressions, then they can evict a tenant.
“And it’s true, they will be able to – but the idea is not to help bad landlords, but to ensure tenants living in badly-run properties can be evicted promptly if their landlord is a rogue operator”.
Ground 14 - Anti-social behaviour
“The big change here is that the evidential base is going from ‘likely to cause nuisance’ to ‘capable of causing nuisance’ which, although it sounds subtle, will mean landlords will have to only gather evidence that a tenant ‘might’ behave badly rather than that they ‘have behaved badly’ during a tenancy”, said Sowerbutts.