What are no-fault evictions? Government set to ban practice in new reforms

·4-min read
The Government is looking to protect private renters from so-called no-fault evictions  (Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive)
The Government is looking to protect private renters from so-called no-fault evictions (Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive)

The UK Government has finally announced long-promised plans to end no-fault evictions.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said the sweeping reforms – set to be introduced in Parliament on May 17 – will allow tenants to challenge landlords that they believe are acting unfairly, without losing their home.

The plans to be put forward would also give tenants the legal right to ask to keep a pet in their home, which landlords “must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse”. The Bill will make it illegal for landlords and agents to impose blanket bans on renting to benefit claimants or families with children.

An ombudsman would oversee disputes while a digital “property portal” will be set up to assist property managers in understanding their obligations, according to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

But what is a no-fault eviction and why are they controversial – here is everything you need to know.

What are no-fault evictions?

At present, a no-fault eviction – known in legal terms as a Section 21 – gives landlords the legal right to evict tenants and repossess properties they own, without having to give a reason. They do not have to establish any fault on behalf of the tenant, and the tenant may not have done anything wrong to be kicked out of their home.

A section 21 allows landlords to effectively evict a tenant without having to give any reason for doing so, with just two months’ notice.

Why are no-fault evictions controversial?

Shelter – the homelessness charity – says that the loss of a private tenancy is a leading trigger of homelessness in England, and renters have zero rights to appeal under the process.

Section 21s are unpopular with tenants and charities as they stop renters from having certainty and security in the place they live. It is hoped the new law will protect people from unfair landlords.

Some believe that landlords have abused the Section 21 in the past, kicking out long-term tenants only to re-rent again to new people at an inflated cost.

Government figures released in February revealed the number of households living in privately rented homes in England who were evicted by bailiffs as a result of Section 21 proceedings increased by 143 per cent in a single year.

A total of 792 households were slapped with Section 21s between October and December in 2021, in comparison to 1,924 between October and December 2022.

Renters were given a temporary relief during the Covid pandemic, with an eviction ban but, once the practice was allowed again, evictions rocketed.

The stats on repossessions and evictions were released by the Ministry of Justice and showed that a total of 6,101 landlords in England started Section 21 no-fault eviction court proceedings between October and December 2022 – a 69 per cent increase in a year and a 47 per cent increase on the same period in 2019 before the pandemic and eviction ban were put in place.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “No-fault evictions are pushing too many people needlessly into homelessness and turning thousands of people’s lives upside down. The government has long promised it would scrap Section 21. Renters can’t wait any longer, the Renters’ Reform Bill is ready to go – it’s time the government stopped stalling and changed the law.”

Homelessness charity Crisis has backed the call to ban them and carried out a survey in December, which found that nearly one million low-income households across Britain feared eviction in the coming months.

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The devastating impact of the cost of living crisis, rising rents and low wages has once again been laid bare as thousands more renters are faced with eviction and the very real threat of being left with nowhere to go.

“With rents rising at their fastest rate in 16 years, the Government cannot continue to look the other way as more and more people are forced into homelessness.”

When are no-fault evictions being banned?

The Renters’ (Reform) Bill will be published on Wednesday May 17 in Parliament, and must make its way through both house before being passed into law. This will take some time as, like any primary legislation, it will require scrutiny and debate by MPs and peers before receiving royal assent if passed by both houses of Parliament.