Section 21 Notice: A Landlord Guide
A detailed guide for landlords about the upcoming changes to Section 21 notices: what are they, and why is the law changing?
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A guide to Section 21 notices: what are they, and why is the law changing?
As part of broad changes to the UK's residential letting industry, the UK Government has announced plans to abolish Section 21 of the Housing Act of 1988 and put an end to so-called "no fault" evictions.
Has this change been long overdue? Or do these extreme proposals run the risk of having unforeseen economic effects at a time when investment in the UK market is at a crossroads, and the cost of living is higher than ever?
What’s the difference between a Section 21 and a Section 8 notice?
Both Section 21 and Section 8 notices (or both) allow landlords to evict tenants who have an assured shorthold tenancy.
The most important difference between a section 8 and section 21: a section 8 notice is served when a tenant is in breach of contract (e.g. rent arrears), and a section 21 is served to end a tenancy agreement, simply so that the landlord can regain possession.
If they have violated the tenancy agreement, you can first serve them with a Section 8 notice.
You may serve them with a Section 21 notice if they haven't. Tenants receive this kind of notice, often known as a "no fault" eviction, which details the departure deadline. If you wish to sell your property or move back into it yourself, you can use this kind of notice.
You must take care to follow the right steps, though, or you risk being accused of forcibly evicting renters.
Everything you need to know about the existing Section 21 notice
You can use a Section 21 notice to evict your tenants either:
- After a fixed term tenancy ends - if there’s a written contract
- During a tenancy with no fixed end date - known as a ‘periodic’ tenancy
When you cannot use a Section 21 notice in England
You cannot use a Section 21 notice if any of the following apply:
- It’s less than 4 months since the tenancy started, or the fixed term has not ended, unless there’s a clause in the tenancy agreement that allows you to do so
- The property is categorised as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) but does not have a valid HMO licence from the local council
- The tenancy started after April 2007 and you have not put the tenants’ deposit in a deposit protection scheme
- The council has served an improvement notice on the property in the last 6 months
- The council has served a notice in the last 6 months that says it will do emergency works on the property
- You have not repaid any unlawful fees or deposits that you charged the tenant
You also cannot use a Section 21 notice if you have not given the tenants copies of:
- The property’s Energy Performance Certificate. You must have given your tenants a copy of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate before they rented the property.
- The government’s ‘How to rent’ guide
- A current gas safety certificate for the property, if gas is installed
- You must have given your tenants the gas safety certificate and the ‘How to rent’ guide before they moved in.
The process of giving tenants a Section 21 notice
In England, use form 6a if the tenancy was started or renewed after 30 September 2015. You can also write your own Section 21 notice.
How much notice you need to give
In England, a Section 21 notice must give your tenants at least 2 months / 8 weeks notice to leave your property.
You may need to give a longer notice period if you have a ‘contractual’ periodic tenancy. This is a fixed term tenancy that has ended, but included a clause to continue as a periodic tenancy. The amount of notice must be the same as the rental period, if this is more than 2 months. For example, if your tenant pays rent every 3 months, you must give 3 months’ notice.
After you give notice
Keep proof that you gave notice to your tenants - either:
- Fill in the certification of service form (N215)
- Write “served by [your name] on [the date]” on the notice
- If your tenants do not leave by the specified date, you can use your completed N215 or notice to apply for an accelerated possession order.
Everything you need to know about the existing Section 8 notice
If you are serving a Section 8 notice, your tenants have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement.
Before serving notice, try to resolve any disputes with your tenant instead. For example, if your tenant(s) has rent arrears, try to work with your tenant to manage the arrears or agree a rent repayment plan if possible.
How do you issue a Section 8 notice?
To give your tenants notice using a Section 8, you must fill in a form entitled ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’. Specify on the notice which terms of the tenancy they’ve broken.
You can apply to the court for a possession order if your tenants do not leave by the specified date.
How much notice do you need to give?
In England, the amount of notice you give for a Section 8 notice depends on your reason, or ‘ground’.
To find out the minimum notice period lengths you can issue tenants, read Annex A of the government guidance for private landlords. Factors included in determining the different notice periods include damage to the property, rent payment arrears, criminal activities of tenants, deterioration of property value, etc.
Please note, there are different eviction notice periods in Wales.
How is the law changing?
The removal of section 21 eviction notices is one of the proposed amendments outlined in the Renters' Reform Bill.
As part of the ongoing effort to generate lengthier leases, the repeal of Section 21 would halt so-called "no-fault evictions" and convert all tenancies to periodic.
Landlords will always be required to give their tenants a reason for terminating a tenancy after Section 21 expires, such as a violation of contract or a desire to sell the property.
As long as they provide the landlord two months' notice, tenants will have the option to terminate their tenancy at any time.
According to the white paper, this will also benefit student tenants who might not want to leave at the end of the academic year, for example, as they will be included in the reforms' purview and will have the same opportunity to live in a secure home and challenge subpar standards as private renters.
Is Section 8 changing too?
Once section 21 is abolished the government has also proposed strengthening the grounds for possession under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988.
The government has shared that the changes it makes will ensure that "responsible" landlords can gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants and will be able to sell their properties when they need to.
It will also "target the areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings [and] strengthen mediation and alternative dispute resolution".
What effect will this change have on landlords?
The PRS industry might potentially suffer more consequences than benefits from the planned repeal of Section 21 of the Housing Act of 1988.
The flexibility that has supported the UK residential real estate market for more than 30 years comes from Section 21. It will inevitably lead to uncertainty at a time when more, not less, confidence from investors and developers is needed. Replacing it with a rigid model, in stark contrast to what the market is used to, will also increase the level of lawsuit risk for landlords.
There are more subtle approaches to redistributing the weight between landlord flexibility and renter security. One example is the introduction of statutory minimum terms for specific types of tenancies. Another is to extend the applicable time frames for Section 21 notices (as was done at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak). But completely eliminating a portion of a long-standing law is a hammer strike that might have unforeseen but nevertheless substantial repercussions for both landlords and tenants.
Too many renters live in constant fear of a sudden eviction, as the former housing secretary Michael Gove has stated.
Homelessness has been exacerbated by ‘shady’ landlords' improper exploitation of Section 21.
The Renters' Reform Bill should result in more longer-term leases, giving people the stability they need to prosper and make positive changes in their lives as well as the opportunity to become rooted in a community and feel a sense of belonging.
However, even if rental reform must be implemented quickly, it must also be handled carefully to prevent people from becoming or remaining homeless.
When section 21 is scrapped, the government will transition to the new system in two stages, with at least six months' notice of the dates that they will take effect, and at least 12 months between the two dates.
- Stage one will transition all new tenancies to periodic, governed by the new rules
- Stage two will move all existing tenancies to the new system
The government has outlined that the Renters' Reform Bill, including these measures to abolish section 21, will be "introduced in this parliamentary session".
Find out more about the Renters Reform Bill and the upcoming changes it outlines. The latest official guidance about the Renters Reform Bill is published online by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
If you found this article helpful, you may enjoy our other landlord guides that you can find on our blog. Find out more about how Oasis Living can help you find the perfect tenants and improve your property management experience. Head to our website now or contact with one of our property experts.
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