Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) are the most common forms of tenancy offered to tenants in the private residential sector. Under an AST, a tenant is entitled to remain in occupation after the fixed term has expired, and can only be removed in certain circumstances and with a court order.
One of these circumstances is where the landlord has served a 'section 21 notice'.
At present, a section 21 notice allows a landlord to evict a tenant from their property at any time after the tenant's fixed AST term has expired. The landlord is not required to give a reason for eviction. However, the section 21 notice must give the tenant at least two months' notice to vacate.
If the tenant does not vacate then the landlord will need to go to court to seek an order to have the tenant removed. Importantly, the landlord does not need to give or prove any reason for evicting the tenant, and eviction can be secured relatively quickly.
The Prime Minister has argued that these type of evictions are "unfair". Eviction from a private tenancy is currently the largest cause of homelessness in England, accounting for more than 2/3 of the growth in homelessness since 2011.
The government therefore aims to give AST tenants more long term security and protect them from eviction at short notice, by banning the use of 'section 21' notices.
If these measures are passed, landlords will instead have to rely on the procedure in sections 7-8 of the Housing Act 1988 to evict AST tenants. This procedure allows landlords to remove tenants during the fixed term of their tenancies and also where tenants stay in occupation after their fixed terms have expired.
This procedure may only be used in certain circumstances, for example where the tenant has breached the terms of its tenancy or the landlord has made suitable alternative accommodation available. The landlord needs to give the tenant notice of its intention to seek possession; depending on the grounds relied upon, the required notice ranges from two weeks to two months.
If the tenant does not then vacate, the landlord must go to court for an order to have the tenant removed. However, unlike the section 21 procedure, the landlord will need to prove that the stated ground is met, and the court will often have discretion not to order the tenant's removal.
For this reason, many have argued that the section 7-8 procedure is not effective, and that it will put landlords to considerable inconvenience and expense in bringing ASTs to an end.