So cunning you could put and tail on it and call it a weasel…

On the 15th April 2019, the Government announced planned changes to the eviction process in England and a consultation on these changes. Of course, you may have missed this because at that time we had other things to worry about; like Brexit, no confidence votes and knife crime. And Notre-Dame was on fire.

The consultation was launched on 21st July and proposes the removal of Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) from the Housing Act 1988. This would mean that assured tenancies would become the only type of tenancies available to private landlords.

The Government is proposing that landlords and tenants can agree either a fixed-term assured tenancy or a periodic assured tenancy. A fixed-term tenancy which is not ended by the tenant, or by the landlord using Section 8, could either be renewed to a new fixed term, or automatically become an assured periodic tenancy.

Basically, the section 21 notice – the “no-fault” eviction – would become a thing of the past.

Under the proposals, landlords will have to provide a concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law for bringing tenancies to an end. This, the Government believes, will be a more effective means of getting their property back when they genuinely need to do so.

We are told that landlords will still be able to end tenancies where they have legitimate reason to do so. To this end, the section 8 process will be amended so that property owners are able to regain their home should they wish to sell it or move into it. It is also intended that court processes will be expedited so that landlords are able to regain their property more easily under a section 8 notice.

It is evident that the private rented sector in England is in need of structural reform. Many of the laws that cover this area are decades old and do not provide adequate protection to either tenants or landlords but it feels as though this particular plan has been devised by Baldrick and implemented by Larry David.

Rather than doing it properly and reforming the entire system, the Government has, yet again, opted for the “tax code method”; add a few more things in, make it a little more complex, tinker with a couple of old laws, stand back and hope for the best.

David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark, says it better than I ever could: “Today’s news could be devastating for the private rented sector and landlords operating within it.

“The effects of the tenant fees ban have not yet been felt, and now the Government is introducing more new legislation which could deter landlords from operating in the market. Although in the majority of cases there is no need for Section 21 to be used, there are times when a landlord has no choice but to take action and evict tenants from a property.

“Landlords need the safety of no-fault evictions and removing Section 21 takes this away. Until we have greater clarity on the changes planned for Section 8, today’s news will only increase pressure on the sector and discourage new landlords from investing in buy-to-let properties. This comes at a time when supply is dramatically outpacing demand and rent costs are rising.”

At a time of unprecedented uncertainty in the UK, it would be great to see the Government take a more strategic approach to housing and the private rented sector, encouraging landlords to invest in properties and putting meaningful measures in place to protect both tenants and landlords.