The UK government has announced plans to withdraw section 21 eviction notices, commonly referred to as “no fault” evictions, in another shakeup of the UK private rental market. These notices are traditionally used by private landlords to terminate tenancies so they can sell or sometimes move into the property. The idea behind withdrawal of section 21 eviction notices, it is only at the consultation stage as yet, is to give tenants greater visibility going forward and the chance to “put down roots”.
Are private rental regulations fit for purpose?
The UK government will in effect create open-ended tenancies and in theory give significant power back to tenants. This will leave only section 8 notices which are traditionally used to evict troublesome tenants and take on average five months to complete. While the government has confirmed that legitimate reasons to end a tenancy will be transferred to the section 8 notice regulation, many are concerned about the slow wheels of justice.
Under the current system, a section 21 notice could see a tenant evicted at the end of a tenancy and within eight weeks of the process beginning. Even though there is support for the withdrawal of section 21 “no fault” evictions there are growing concerns that landlords are yet again being targeted by politicians looking to curry favour with voters.
Repossession of property
As we touched on above, it takes on average five months to repossess a property using a section 8 notice and from eight weeks using the current section 21 notices. While the government has promised to expedite the legal timescale for section 8 notices going forward, this is unlikely to be in place before the withdrawal of section 21 notices. Aside from the fact that landlords stand to have a greater period of reduced or nil rental income, while pursuing evictions, there may well be problems with buy to let lenders.
Under the current “no fault” system a landlord can in theory have possession of their property within eight weeks. This is a system accepted and embraced by buy to let lenders but a process which takes five months would most certainly put at risk the receipt of any rental income during the process. The government has also been fairly “woolly” with regards to proposed changes to the section 8 process. This obviously does nothing for the risk/reward ratio considered by buy to let lenders and may lead to higher headline mortgage interest rates.
Over the last few years we have seen some significant changes to the private rental market with private landlords under pressure. While the government can wax lyrical about social and moral obligations, when push comes to shove money will talk. Therefore, it will be interesting to see whether there is a reduction in investment in buy to let property by private landlords. Interestingly, tax, regulatory and changes to tenant rights have significantly less impact on corporate landlords compared to private landlords.
Whichever way the government spin this week’s announcement there is no doubt that private landlords are feeling under pressure. Ironically, growth in demand for private rental properties has been encouraged due to the inept social housing policy of the current UK government and those going back many years. In the 1980s the Conservative government introduced the “right to buy” process which led to a UK homeownership bonanza but at the expense of social housing stock. It would appear that the government is putting all of its eggs into the corporate landlord basket and looking to dismantle the private landlord sector piece by piece. Might they come to regret this?