Is the end nigh… for no-fault evictions?

Angelo Micciche

The Section 21 Housing Act 1988, “no fault” eviction, when given to the tenant (“served”) in the correct way and giving two clear months to vacate, has for a long time been used by landlords as the most hassle-free and cost-effective way to bring an end to assured shorthold tenancies- which were themselves designed for that purpose. Indeed, for some time and particularly during the housing crisis that has escalated for the past 40 years, and due to the pandemic, there has been a lot of political pressure brought to bear to end this procedure, to which, we are told, the government may soon succumb. Watch this space!

There are also certain, fault-based grounds (section 8 and schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988) for getting out tenants, some mandatory, eg. showing 8 weeks of arrears, but some only discretionary, ie. potentially problematic and expensive to prove at court. Again, the notice has to be in the correct form.

The correct nature of the paperwork shall determine whether the notice served is valid. For landlords embarking upon getting possession of their property, the first stage will be to gather, assess and, if necessary, send the documents to the tenant that will need to have been sent before the notice for possession may be given. Usually, these papers should have been given to the tenant before the tenancy started or, in relation to deposits, within 30 days after the commencement of the tenancy. Non-compliance in relation to the proper procedure and protection of deposits may also give the tenant the ability to sue the landlord for up to three times the amount of the deposit.

It will be much more difficult to end the tenancy if you have not complied, at the beginning of the tenancy, with the statutory requirements relating to protection of the tenant’s deposit, and provision of documentation to the tenant relating to, for example Gas fittings, How to Rent Guide and Energy Performance Certificate.

The property must be in good order at all times. The landlord is responsible for maintaining the following items at their own cost:

  • The structure and exterior of the property.
  • Sinks, baths, toilets and other sanitary fittings, including pipes and drains.
  • Heating and hot water installations.
  • All gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation.
  • Electrical wiring.

It is imperative that the landlord keeps on top of maintenance works. If a local authority has concerns over any aspect of safety of the property, it can carry out an inspection and insist on repairs being carried out. The landlord would then be unable to serve a valid notice of possession until 6 months have passed from the date that the Council states in writing that they are satisfied with the repairs made. This statutory requirement has ended- or more properly, delayed- the practice of “retaliatory evictions”, where landlords serve eviction notices due to complaints made about the property. The landlord must also keep the appliances (such as the washing machine, cooker and fridge) at the property in repair.

If all the above documents and factors are in order, the landlord may then send the correct form of notice requiring possession to the tenant within two months, after which, if the tenant does not leave the property, they may issue court proceedings to get a possession order. Provided a possession order is made, a warrant of possession can be sought to evict if the tenants fail to vacate. Please call Angelo Micciche on 01326 316655.

– Angelo Micciche TEP, CTAPS, Solicitor with Hine Downing Solicitors