‘No fault’ evictions ban to boost supported living tenant protections

Out-Law News | 25 Jul 2022 | 10:19 am | 2 min. read

New proposals to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions in England would boost protections for private tenants in supported living arrangements, according to one legal expert.

Joanne Ellis of Pinsent Masons said plans set out in the Renters Reform Bill white paper would “provide greater security” for adults with learning difficulties from “unscrupulous landlords”. The plans include a pledge by ministers to scrap section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act, which allows a landlord in England to evict a tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) without providing a reason. Most private tenants in England have an AST, and these are also commonly used in supported living arrangements where adults with learning difficulties share a house.

Ellis said: “For decades, section 21 left many private tenants reluctant to challenge poor living standards over fears that their landlord would evict them rather than deal with their complaints. No fault evictions often left renters insecure, unable to find suitable housing close to their work, and forced to relocate far from their family and community.”

“A large number of respondents to the government’s consultation on the reforms drew a link between no fault evictions and poorer living conditions, lower incomes or receipt of benefits for people with disabilities and older people. The government’s plan to abolish section 21 will, therefore, provide greater security for these groups and is a welcome step,” Ellis said.

She added: “Landlords must, however, be able to remove tenants under certain circumstances, and the government’s white paper strengthens their legitimate grounds for taking back their property. Alongside evictions for criminal behaviour and serious rent arrears, the Renters Reform Bill makes clear that landlords can also take back their property if they wish to move into it, sell it, or substantially redevelop it – subject to a two-month notice period.”

“Importantly for the supported living sector, there is a specific mandatory ground for taking back their property on four weeks’ notice where the tenancy was intended to be short term. There is also a specific mandatory ground for taking back the property where the funding or support element has ended or no longer meets the tenant’s needs, or a shared housing arrangement has undergone significant changes. There is also a discretionary ground for the court to decide where the tenant is not engaging with the support on offer,” Ellis said.

The Renters Reform Bill also includes plans to create a new private renters’ ombudsman to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled quickly, at low cost and without going to court. The ombudsman will cover all private landlords letting properties and make sure that landlords take action when residents make a complaint. The Bill will also introduce a new property portal to help landlords understand their obligations, give tenants performance information to hold their landlord to account, and help councils crack down on poor practice.

Ministers also plan to improve standards in the social housing system with a separate regulatory framework to increase transparency for tenants on how their landlord is performing, how their homes are managed and who is responsible for compliance with health and safety requirements.