The UK government recently announced plans to abolish landlords’ ability to terminate assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) on ‘no-fault’ grounds under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (HA 1988).  

The proposals will affect all private residential ASTs in England and, once in force, the law in England will mirror the existing position in Scotland. This is in response to the results of the government’s 2018 consultation, which highlighted that short-term residential tenants feel vulnerable that their landlords can terminate their tenancies without any justification and at short notice.

Section 21 currently allows landlords to terminate fixed-term ASTs without reason on or after the end of the term on giving two months’ notice. This is effectively a safety net for landlords who are not happy with their tenants and want to terminate their tenancy arrangements. 

In addition, the government plans to:

  • extend the grounds for termination (HA 1988, section 8) to allow landlords to terminate ASTs where the landlords wish to move into the property or where the landlords wish to sell with vacant possession; and
  • simplify the court processes to make it easier for landlords to gain possession through the courts, but only where they can justify the requirement of possession under one of the section 8 grounds.

The effect of these proposals will be that landlords will always have to provide justification from the set list of statutory grounds under HA 1988 for terminating ASTs. 

This is only a proposal at this stage, though, and an Act of Parliament will be needed to make any changes to HA 1988. It could be a lengthy process as the government intends to carry out a further consultation first on the details of the new system, and to work with the Ministry of Justice and the courts and tribunals service to reform the courts processes for possession. They wish to build a consensus on a package of reforms, which will take time. In the current political climate, a general election and the impending change of prime minister could substantially change the pace or direction of this reform too!

A full briefing will be provided if and when legislative amendments are passed by Parliament.