The future of resolving tenancy disputes

Few landlords relish the idea of a tenancy dispute, but they are an unfortunate part of renting out a property to a tenant that many landlords have to face.

Often matters can simply be resolved by agreement between the landlord and the tenant, but circumstances arise where the landlord needs to recover possession of a property but the tenant is unwilling to leave.

Currently the most expedient way of dealing with that is by way of service of valid Section 21 notice giving the tenant not less than 2 months to vacate the property, failing which the landlord can apply to the County Court and obtain an order for possession of the property.

Under Section 21 no reason to terminate the tenancy needs to be given by the landlord.

However, the requirements that a landlord now has to meet to be able to serve a valid Section 21 notice are becoming more and more onerous.

At the present time a landlord seeking possession under a Section 21 notice can obtain an order for possession reasonably promptly under the accelerated possession procedure without the need and expense of a court hearing.

To make the position more difficult for landlords, the government is now suggesting that Section 21 notices and the accelerated possession procedure should be scrapped altogether, such that a landlord will only be able to get a court order to recover the property from a tenant if they can prove one of the limited Section 8 grounds set out in the Housing Act, which usually involves proving significant arrears of rent or some other serious breach of the terms of the tenancy by the tenant.

A large number of the Section 8 grounds are discretionary and there is no guarantee that the County Court will exercise its discretion to make an order for possession of the property.

Applications to the County Court on a Section 8 ground take much longer and require at least one court hearing at which the court hears evidence so it can decide whether or not to make an order for possession.  The legal costs of a Section 8 application are therefore often double the costs of a Section 21 application under the accelerated possession procedure.

The Future

It seems likely that Section 21 notices and the accelerated possession procedure will be abolished, but those changes will probably be delayed until BREXIT is sorted out.

What is clear is that the situation is becoming more and more of a potential minefield for landlords; who therefore need to ensure that where they need to recover possession of a property they do it properly with the benefit of specialist landlord and tenant advice from a solicitor.

If you are currently in a dispute with a tenant, need to recover possession of a property you have let out or you are just concerned about the proposed changes to the law and what they will mean for you, then please call Toby Conyers-Kelly on 01904 528217 or email tck@hethertons.co.uk