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UK ‘no fault evictions’ update leaves many questions unanswered

Image credit – Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

Image credit – Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

Comments from Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove on ‘no fault’ evictions highlight that the incumbent government’s manifesto commitments on reforms to ‘no fault’ evictions remain a government priority, an expert has said.

However, “the current lack of specifics on crucial elements such as promised reforms of court and tribunal processes risk leaving landlords, investors, tenants, and those advising them, in an uncertain position,” said property dispute resolution expert Ian Morgan of Pinsent Masons.

Michael Gove has promised to bring in a ban on Section 21 evictions, known as “no fault” evictions, ahead of this year’s general election. No fault evictions allow landlords to terminate tenancies after the fixed term has expired without giving any reason. The proposed ban means landlords of residential property would instead be required to seek possession of a rental property relying on a fairly broad range of grounds specified in a statutory notice. This may mean that every case would require a hearing unless the tenant leaves voluntarily after being served with a notice or provision is made to introduce some form of accelerated procedure for some of the grounds. The Renters (Reform) Bill (162 pages / 1.967 MB) outlining the ban is currently going through parliament but is not expected to be debated again until next month.

Previously, government assurances to MPs suggested that a no fault evictions ban would not take effect until improvements were made to the court system.  Announcing the decision to postpone the ban indefinitely in November 2023, Michael Gove told MPs it was “vital” to reform the court system first to avoid it becoming overwhelmed.  Nicola Charlton, housing law and residential sector expert at Pinsent Masons cautioned that “the latest comments may result in further confusion in the market”.

Charlton added that “affordability and accessibility of housing remains a key election issue – and renters want to feel secure in their home.  When and how these reforms can be implemented by the courts and tribunals service to deliver a streamlined possession process for genuine cases remains to be seen.” 

Michael Gove’s comments came after a week where it had been revealed that the number of households evicted because of no fault evictions rose by 39% in 2023, compared to 2022, according to analysis by housing charity Shelter. It means the total of so-called Section 21 notices since the government first announced plans to ban the practise almost five years ago has surpassed 26,000. The analysis found that a further 30,230 landlords started no-fault eviction court proceedings in 2023, reflecting s 28% rise in one year.

Sarah Campey, housing and residential sector expert at Pinsent Masons said: “Whether there really is the time and necessary backing to make the bill a reality before the next general election is questionable. Notwithstanding this, it is clear that section 21 will be abolished either before or after the election, whatever the outcome, and it now looks like that will happen sooner rather than later.”

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