Section 21’ evictions – are we prepared for the end of an era?

What is Section 21 and how is it changing?  


If a tenant does not vacate their property at the end of the fixed term of an assured shorthold tenancy (‘AST’), a landlord cannot simply enter the house and change the locks. To do so would put them at risk of an unlawful eviction claim, which can attract a substantial fine and even a criminal prosecution. To lawfully regain possession, a court order must be made, and enforced by a bailiff if necessary. This process can take a number of months and come at a substantial cost. 

Landlords who wish to regain possession at the end of a fixed term of an AST can currently have recourse to the ‘section 21 procedure’, which involves giving the tenant a minimum of two month’s notice to vacate, after which court proceedings can be started. This procedure is often known as ‘no fault eviction’, as no reason needs to be given for seeking possession. It can be contrasted with the alternative ‘section 8 procedure’, which can be used where a tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement, in one of a number of defined ways.  

Balancing the rights of landlords and tenants has always been a delicate, and often fraught, exercise. Life is unpredictable and circumstances may change for both parties. The Conservative Government now plans to overhaul the existing system.  

Back in 2019, the Conservative party manifesto included a pledge to introduce a ‘Renter’s Reform Bill’, which would abolish ‘no fault’ eviction. After a number of delays, the Government published it’s White Paper, ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ in June 2022, and it is now expected that the Reform Bill will be debated and voted on in Parliament before May 2023.   

It is anticipated that the gap left by the proposed abolition of section 21 will be filled by the wider reform of existing grounds of possession, with the Government stating that, “we will introduce a new ground for landlords who wish to sell their property and allow landlords and their close family members to move into a rental property”. There is no draft legislation currently in circulation, so further details are eagerly awaited.  


When is this happening? 

‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ states the following: 

“We will provide at least six months’ notice of our first implementation date, after which all new tenancies will be….governed by the new rules.” “All existing tenancies will transition to the new system on a second implementation date. After this point, all tenants will be protected from Section 21 eviction. We will allow at least twelve months between the first and second dates.” 

This means that if the Bill is passed, we would currently expect landlords of existing ASTs to have a minimum notice period of eighteen months before the changes become effective – but nothing is set in stone.  

Commentators are now raising concerns about the implications of this timeline for an already overburdened court system. Landlords will inevitably be left to revaluate their position, and it is not unreasonable to expect that a looming deadline may result in landlords rushing to serve section 21 notices while they still can. This in turn could result in an influx of court claims if tenants do not leave when their notice period expires.   

The closure of many courts over recent years, coupled with a reduction in staff and resources for those remaining, has already meant that possession proceedings are often delayed. The proposed reforms may exacerbate the problem and it remains to be seen what, (if any), provision will be made for this. 

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