Housing lawyers have welcomed the government’s announcement
today (15 April 2019) that it will end no-fault eviction of tenants, but they warn that this will not be enough to solve the housing crisis.
The government says it wants to abolish Housing Act 1988 s21 notices. Tenants currently renting under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement can be evicted with a minimum of eight weeks’ notice. In its announcement, the prime minister described this as ‘unfair’ and said that people should have a ‘right to feel secure in their home, settled in their community and able to plan for the future with confidence’.
Over the past 10 years, the number of private rented households has doubled to 4.7m. A report
by the housing charity Shelter found that 43 per cent of renting families with children are worried about losing their home. There has been a growing clamour from LAG
and other campaigning organisations, such as Generation Rent and Shelter, for a change of direction in the government policy on housing.
in the Times
today argued that no-fault evictions have ‘become increasingly indefensible as the numbers relying on private rental accommodation have more than doubled over the past decade’. It also observed that addressing the issue ‘made sense from a political perspective’, as according to polling data there was a large swing to Labour from the Conservatives by private renters at the last election.
Housing lawyer and LAG author, Diane Astin, said that the announcement was ‘very good news’ as ‘tenants in the private sector need security so they can enjoy some stability’. She warned, though, that ‘affordability also needs to be addressed’ as she fears ‘this measure alone, if market rents prevail and benefits continue to be capped, will not have the desired effect’.
Sue James, director of Hammersmith and Fulham Law Centre, also welcomed the changes but said: ‘What is required is more social housing that can provide long-term security for those most in need.’ She further pointed out that ‘the draconian mandatory s8’ that enables landlords, including social landlords, to evict for a few weeks’ rent arrears, remains in place. She fears that as people need to wait at least five weeks to receive universal credit, evictions caused by delays in benefit payments will continue.
Organisations representing landlords have been quick to condemn the government’s proposals. Richard Lambert, CEO of the National Landlords Association, has been widely quoted saying that landlords were forced to rely on s21 to evict tenants as they had ‘no confidence’ in the courts to deal efficiently with eviction cases. In today’s announcement, though, the government has pledged to speed up proceedings to evict tenants for rent arrears or other legal grounds.
Last summer, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government undertook a consultation
on proposed changes to tenancy law. It floated the idea of three-year tenancies to provide more security for renters. The announcement today goes beyond this, but there will be a consultation on the proposals and no implementation timetable has been confirmed.