The long-awaited Government White Paper, ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’, was released in June by Michael Gove MP confirming the future abolition of Section 21 so that landlords will always need to provide a reason for ending a tenancy, such as wishing to sell the property or wanting to move back in, writes Laurent Vaughan, a Senior Associate in our experienced and award-winning Landlord & Tenant team.
Reported by Property118.com, Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, commented on the impending changes: “The changes offer tenants greater security as part of a plan to create longer tenancies. However, implementing more mandatory grounds of possession under Section 8 should also strike a chord with tenants, demonstrating that rent arrears, criminal and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated”
“Previously, landlords have used Section 21 in these cases because trying to collate witness statements from co-tenants and neighbours has been challenging and often fruitless where the ground was discretionary. Knowing this procedure is mandatory will mean a judge has to grant possession as long as the requirements are met and evidence provided.”
“I think it is disappointing that the notice period for the existing arrears eviction ground will be increased from two to four weeks, but I welcome the new mandatory ground for repeated serious arrears to prevent tenants paying off a small amount of arrears to stay below the eviction threshold. However, I believe falling into serious arrears twice in three years should be sufficient enough for mandatory eviction rather than the proposed three cases.”
“It is positive news that the changes have not been rushed in and the transition will be 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. With concerns surrounding the cost of living, rising interest rates and impending changes to EPCs, I do think it is likely we will see an initial spike of landlords using Section 21 before the changes come in, of which the unintended consequence will be that perfectly good tenants will be evicted.”
“35% of Landlord Action’s instructions currently use Section 21 notices, so this is an indication of how much additional resource the court system will require, and a new robust system must be implemented to give landlords and agents the reassurance they need.”
The national media’s attention was gripped by Gove’s proposals to allow tenants in private rented properties to keep pets, “We will make it easier for landlords to accept pets by amending the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to include pet insurance as a permitted payment. This means landlords will be able to require pet insurance, so that any damage to their property is covered. We will continue to work with landlords and other groups to encourage a common-sense approach.”
“You will have a right to request a pet in your property, which the landlord must consider and not unreasonably withhold consent. To mitigate any concerns about pets, your landlord may ask you to take out pet insurance.”
“We will legislate to ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge a decision.”
Notwithstanding the nation’s love of dogs and cats, this seems a low blow for landlords. No amount of insurance will cover wear and tear. Carpets, furniture, and curtains may need to be replaced more frequently.
Nor does the White Paper make a distinction between tenants in High Multiple Occupancy (HMO) buildings wanting pets and tenants in a whole property. Apart from student lets, most HMOs are home for people who stay for varying lengths of time but may not always know each other well.
Not unreasonably, landlords will be reluctant to consent to dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents, or snakes in an HMO. Current and prospective tenants may have allergies or be scared of these animals. How will other tenants be protected if an absent resident’s dog continues to bark when its owner is away?
The problem is not confined to fellow tenants. If emergency access is requested to fix a gas or water leak, why should the landlord risk being bitten? Or, if a cat escapes from a dwelling during such an inspection, will the landlord be liable?
By attempting to streamline and simplify existing tenancy legislation, the Government has created new problems which will most likely only benefit the legal and insurance industries in the short run.
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Bishop & Sewell’s Landlord & Tenant lawyers have the knowledge and experience to guide you through any of the issues raised in this Blog.
If you are affected by similar issues or would like to have a related discussion in confidence, please call me Laurent Vaughan quoting Ref CB328 on 020 7091 4193 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The above is accurate as at 12 July 2022. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.