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Ending no-fault evictions in Wales

 
During the Welsh Labour Conference in Llandudno, Mark Drakeford AM, the Leader of Welsh Labour and First Minister of Wales, announced that the Welsh Government will be banning no-fault evictions in the private rented sector, otherwise known as Section 21. 
 
No time frame for its implementation has been set as of yet. However, here at Open Doors we thought it would be worthwhile to provide something for both landlords and tenants on how the proposed changes could affect them. 
 
What is Section 21? 
 
Section 21 gives landlords the power to evict their tenants without having to give a reason. Once a tenant has received a Section 21 notice, they have two months from the date of the notice to move out. If the tenant has not moved out in that time, the landlord would need to apply to the courts for a possession order. Section 21 powers apply where a tenant has an Assured Shorthold Tenancy which is not within a fixed term agreement or during the first four months of the tenancy.
 
However, this is not the only way for landlords to gain possession of a property; a landlord can also gain possession through a Section 8 (fault-based) notice. This is applicable for example, if there have been instances where tenants have not paid their rent or tenants have acted in an anti-social way. Anti-social behaviour (ASB) covers a wide variety of unacceptable behaviours that cause harm to an individual, a community or the local environment. Generally speaking, a Section 8 notice can only be served if a tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement.  
 
One of the main differences between a Section 21 and a Section 8 is that landlords will need to provide evidence to demonstrate why they are seeking possession when using a Section 8 notice and as such, may choose to use Section 21 as the quicker option.
 
What would Section 21 ban mean for tenants in Wales? 
 
Safety and Stability – the private rented sector is no longer an option for only young students and professionals. Changes in the law in Wales mixed with lack of available social housing has meant that more diverse people including families and older people are living in the private rented sector as a long term housing solution. Banning Section 21 will mean that tenants are likely to feel safer and more secure in their homes which will enable them to plan for the future. 
 
They will also be more likely to feel secure enough to make a complaint if they feel that they have been mistreated. Often times, tenants do not make complaints to their landlords out of fear of revenge eviction. Research by Citizens Advice found that tenants who had made a formal complaint against their landlord had a 46% chance of being issued with a Section 21 eviction notice, compared to tenants who had not made a complaint. 
 
Chance to defend yourself – ‘no-fault’ evictions do not allow tenants to defend themselves in court. If there is a reason why a landlord wants to evict a tenant such as rent arrears, then the Section 21 process does not currently allow the facts to be established. 
 
Tenants do not have to unnecessarily move – If tenants are settled in a property, the ban on Section 21 will mean that they do not have to move unnecessarily unless they have breached the terms of their tenancy such as not paying their rent or any other good reason for wanting to end their tenancy such as, purchasing their own home. 
 
What would Section 21 ban mean for landlords in Wales? 
 
If the proposed ban is implemented, it will mean landlords are no longer able to issue ‘no fault’ notices to tenants and would have to provide ‘good reasons’ for eviction. 
 
Quicker option – Landlords will no longer be able to issue Section 21 notices as an easier or alternative option to gain possession of a property from tenants, where the tenants have found themselves in rent arrears or are displaying anti-social behaviour. 
 
This would mean that landlords will have to follow the procedure of serving a Section 8 notice. You can find more information on serving a Section 8 notice here
 
What do others think? 
 
Shelter Cymru have long been campaigning for no-fault evictions to be banned in Wales. Their research found that at least 42% of tenants were on rolling contracts, making them vulnerable to Section 21. The proposal of the ban would mean that tenants have more security in the sector. 
 
Shelter Cymru have stated that they wish for private renters in Wales to have the same rights that tenants have in other parts of the world. According to them, the proposed ban won’t stop landlords from getting the property back if they have a genuine reason, but it will give tenants the reassurance that as long as they pay rent on time and look after the property, they will have a home for as long as they need. 
 
On the other hand, The RLA have expressed deep concerns towards the proposed ban citing that ‘Section 21 is the backbone of the sector and is not retaliatory action by landlords, but a preferred method because reform hasn’t happened to Section 8’. 
 
RLA research has shown that the majority of ‘no-fault’ repossessions are based on the behaviour of the tenant. Evictions usually occur as a result of rent arrears or anti-social behaviour. Fault based repossessions can take on average half a year to complete. According to the RLA, if Section 21 is removed, it should only be done once landlords can reliably and quickly evict tenants who are in serious rent arrears or another breach of their tenancy. Without this certainty, landlords may choose to leave the market or only rent to the most financially secure tenants, increasing homelessness as a result. 
 
What now? 
 
In Wales, the proposal is not to ban Section 21 as such, but to pass legislation to amend the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. The amendments will remove particular sections of legislation which currently allow landlords to give tenants notice without specifying any particular breach or reason. 
 
There is some difficulty with this process as the Welsh Government are currently looking to amend an Act that is yet to come in to force. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act has been subject to considerable delays already and it is likely that the proposed changes may add to the delays. 
 
Consultation is likely to happen in the summer however no timeframe has been set for this yet. Here at Open Doors, we would like to take the opportunity to state that we will happily take the opportunity to work with Welsh Government officials on the proposals going further.
 
Increasing safety and security in the private rented sector is something that we are passionate about here at Open Doors. We welcome reforms that work towards making the private rented sector a fairer place to live for everyone, especially for those from marginalised and vulnerable backgrounds. 
We believe that tenants should have security and stability so that they are able to create a home. But we also understand that landlords require more effective support, if they are to let their properties to tenants with needs that would have been traditionally met by social landlords. 
 
If you are a landlord or a tenant and wish to discuss the proposed ban further you are welcome to contact us at: opendoors@taipawb.org 
 
Alternatively, you can contact Shelter Cymru or the RLA Wales

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