As a buy-to-let landlord, you hope that you won’t ever need to deal with tenant evictions, but it’s still worth knowing the current – and possible future – rules.
A tenant may need to be evicted for all sorts of reasons, such as the landlord selling the property to a non-landlord buyer, the landlord wishing to move into the property themselves, or because of a tenant not paying their rent or breaking the terms of a rental agreement.
Fortunately, the vast majority of tenancies do not end in eviction, but anyone who chooses to invest in buy-to-let property should still make sure they are familiar with the process, and know what their options are when it comes to removing tenants from their property, to ensure they are compliant.
Over recent months, there has also been much talk about the upcoming Renters Reform Bill, which proposes to make some quite significant changes to the way evictions work, among other things. The idea is to protect tenants from unfair evictions, while also speeding up the process for landlords.
At the moment, though, the plans are mired in uncertainty, with reports of parts of it being blocked by MPs and the possibility of the Bill being delayed. Whether or not the proposed new rules come to pass as they are set out, it seems likely that there will be some level of reform on this aspect of the rental market.
How do I evict my tenants?
Most tenancy agreements are ‘assured shorthold tenancies’ (ASTs), which are either fixed-term agreements – such as a 12-month fixed term – or periodic tenancies, which run on a weekly or monthly basis with no end date.
There are two main ways to evict a tenant who is on an AST: using either a Section 21 notice, also known as a ‘no-fault eviction’; or using a Section 8 notice, which should be used if a tenant has broken their tenancy agreement, such as through not paying rent or anti-social behaviour.
As the name suggests, a Section 21 notice deals with evictions where the tenant is normally not at fault. This may just be because you want to repossess the property in order to sell it, for example. You do not have to give your tenants a reason for this type of notice, but there are a number of strict rules to follow.
This includes giving your tenants at least two months to leave the property, and you can issue this notice either after a fixed-term tenancy ends, or at any point during a periodic tenancy.
If you file a Section 8 notice, you must specify the details regarding what terms of the tenancy agreement the tenant has broken. The notice period for this type of eviction can vary depending on what terms they have broken. A more in-depth list of the rules and procedures is available on the government’s website.
Banning no-fault evictions
Under the Renters Reform Bill, it is proposed that Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions are banned, and that all tenancy structures are periodic rather than fixed. The government’s reason for this is to remove uncertainty for tenants, with the argument that some are unfairly evicted so that landlords can hike rents, for example.
There have also been reports that some tenants fear reporting issues with their properties, such as damp, mould or faulty appliances, for fear of being evicted. If Section 21 is abolished, landlords will need to give a valid reason for evicting a tenant, which must fall under certain criteria.
This could include wanting to sell the property or to move into it, or to move a family member into it. As before, it could also include persistent rent arrears or the tenant breaking their tenancy agreement.
When antisocial behaviour or serious rent arrears from tenants is involved, landlords will be entitled to make a possession claim immediately, and the whole court process for evictions has also been pledged to be sped up for landlords.
Still some uncertainty
At the moment, the Renters Reform Bill is still at the second reading stage in Parliament, and there are no clear answers as to what date the new rules may come into effect. Therefore, at present, landlords should continue to follow the existing process for Section 21 and Section 8 evictions.
In recent comments at the Conservative Party Conference, Housing Minister Rachel Maclean said the government would “guarantee” that landlords will have the power to repossess their properties more quickly through the courts once the reform takes effect.
At the moment, many in the industry feel that the evictions process at present takes too long and is therefore too costly for landlords in some circumstances.
Commenting on this, Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said: “Without the confidence of knowing that where they have good cause they can regain their property swiftly, the exodus of landlords from the market will continue. All this will do is make it even harder for renters to find a place to live.
“The minister’s comments are welcome, but they need to be backed up by clear plans setting out actions that will be taken and a timeframe for implementation. That must include investment in new staff and greater use of technology to process cases more swiftly.”