Property Portal creation
The Renters Reform Bill (the Bill) passed its second reading in the House of Commons on 23 October and is now in the committee phase.
The Bill includes the creation of the Property Portal which will contain details of existing residential landlords, prospective residential landlords and dwellings which are or are intended to be let under residential tenancies. The Government hasn’t given details of the exact information to be available to the public on the portal, instead stating that this will be set out in regulations.
Abolition of section 21 of the Renters Reform Bill
The Bill also includes the replacement of fixed term assured shorthold tenancies with periodic assured tenancies, bringing with this change an abolition of the use of s21 notices. To compensate landlords for the loss of s21, the Bill looks to introduce more robust grounds for possession, designed to enhance the power of landlords to evict anti-social tenants, tenants who are persistently in arrears and to give landlords the flexibility to end tenancies when they plan to sell the property.
It was anticipated that the core tenets of the Bill would come into force broadly at the same time. However, it appears that the Government now intends the abolition of s21 notices to be delayed. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities who is leading on the Bill, announced that court reforms need to take place before the ban on s21 notice related evictions can take place.
Reforming the private rented sector
On 9 February 2023, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee published a report entitled ‘Reforming the Private Rented Sector’, where it outlined recommendations for change in the private rented sector. One of those recommendations concerned court reform; the committee recommended introducing a specialist housing court with the aim of ensuring that the courts can quickly and efficiently process possession claims. The committee recommended that targets should be established for how quickly cases should progress through the courts before abolishing s21.
The Government responded on 20 October 2023. In its response, the Government noted that it did not agree with the recommendation to introduce a housing court, however, it did recognise the need to speed up possession claims through the courts. They noted that they are working with the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunal Service to "drive forward improvements”. They went on to comment that “we will not proceed with the abolition of section 21, until reforms to the justice system are in place.”
Section 21 abolition delay
In the second reading of the Bill, Natalie Elphick, Conservative MP and member of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, noted that the abolition of s21 should not be postponed because of court delays and that, since publishing their report in February 2023, court delays had significantly decreased. Our own significant experience in possession claims shows that the court system at present is still under immense strain and claims are taking many months to come to a conclusion; a state of affairs that is unfair for both tenants and landlords.
Future of section 21
It seems that, following the most recent developments, s21 evictions will remain for the time being, as the Government has not given a deadline for when it hopes proposed court reforms to be completed. It appears likely that the Bill will still progress through Parliament and become law next year, but that the bringing into force of provisions that would end s21 evictions may be shelved pending the Government being satisfied that the court system has been improved sufficiently. It has been suggested therefore that there may not be any meaningful progress before the next general election, which must take place by 28 January 2025.
Stephen Small is the property litigation team and acts for both landlords and tenants, advising on all aspects of commercial, residential and mixed use property related disputes. Stephen is highly experienced at resolving all forms of property dispute through alternative dispute resolution processes or court proceedings as required. Anna Newbury is a first-seat trainee in the property litigation team.