Could landlords soon be able to evict tenants more easily for anti-social behaviour and rent arrears?
As part of the government’s new anti-social behaviour action plan, private landlords will be able to give two weeks’ notice when evicting tenants on this ground. While this is not mentioned in the government’s published plan, media reports have suggested that the same could apply when tenants fall behind on their rent.
The Section 8 discretionary ground for anti-social behaviour will also be expanded to make evictions easier to secure. “Any behaviour capable of causing nuisance or annoyance” will count, whether or not the landlord has received complaints.
The changes will be part of the Renters’ Reform Bill, which the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, has said will be introduced in the next couple of months.
They are also expected to come alongside new eviction grounds for persistent arrears, promised in the government’s rental reform white paper. The new grounds are expected to apply when a tenant has fallen into at least two months’ worth of arrears three times within the past three years.
Making evictions easier in cases of rent arrears and anti-social behaviour would greatly soften the blow to landlords if Section 21 evictions are ended by the Renters’ Reform Bill. Research from the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has found that the vast majority of Section 21 notices, more than 70%, are issued because of rent arrears. A further 28% were due to the tenant’s anti-social behaviour.
Industry groups like the NRLA, which campaigned for easier evictions in anti-social behaviour cases, welcomed the move regarding anti-social behaviour. Research by the NRLA previously found that 50% of landlords have tried to repossess a property because of anti-social or criminal behaviour by a tenant. While Propertymark also applauded the announcement, they also called on the government to set up a dedicated housing court to ensure that cases can be heard quickly.
But activist groups worry that the changes could lead to more homelessness if people with a history of anti-social behaviour are deprioritised for social housing. Without clear guidance on what counts as anti-social behaviour, they also argue that landlords could abuse the new rules.
Some industry commentators also doubt that the changes will help landlords if long court delays continue. Securing an eviction through the courts can take up to a year. According to the action plan, the government will work with the courts to prioritise anti-social behaviour cases in an attempt to reduce the backlog, but moving these cases to the front of the queue could slow down evictions for other grounds, such as rent arrears.
For now, landlords, agents, tenants and other industry stakeholders will have to wait for the Renters’ Reform Bill to see whether their concerns are addressed.
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