How will the proposed reforms affect social landlords' ability to take action against anti-social behaviour?
The Renters Reform Bill promises to make the most significant changes to housing law for decades. In this update, we consider how the proposed reforms will affect social landlords' options and ability to take action against anti-social behaviour.
Abolition of starter tenancies and fixed term tenancies
The Bill proposes to abolish assured shorthold tenancies. In doing so, starter tenancies and fixed term tenancies will become a thing of the past. This will remove much of the flexibility afforded by such agreements and the ability to serve a section 21 notice on a tenant at the end of a starter period or fixed term. As tenancies will be assured, any claim for possession issued because of anti-social behaviour will need to be issued on Grounds 7A and/or 14.
Notice period reduced for Ground 7A
The notice period for Ground 7A will be reduced from 28 days to not before the date of service of the notice (in line with Ground 14). This means that social landlords will be able to act more promptly where the mandatory ground is made out, and will be of particular help where a landlord wishes to, for example, move possession proceedings as far forward as possible during the period of a closure order.
Ground 14 amended
The wording for Ground 14 will be amended, so that rather than the tenant or person residing or visiting the property having been guilty of conduct causing or 'likely' to cause a nuisance or annoyance, it will be conduct causing or 'capable' of causing a nuisance or annoyance.
In theory, this will reduce the threshold for the ground to be met and brings it in line with the threshold for what constitutes anti-social behaviour in injunction proceedings. The reality is that as Ground 14 is a discretionary ground, a judge will need to be satisfied that it was reasonable to make a possession order and many judges will require a lot of persuading that it is reasonable to make a possession order where the behaviour is only 'capable' of causing nuisance or annoyance, but hasn't actually done so.
A new form of notice
The Bill provides for a prescribed form of notice. When the Bill is in time passed into law (and we do not know when that will be), social landlords will be required to use the new form that will be published in due course. If notice is served on an older version of the form (for example the current version of the section 8 notice), this will likely give any defendant a complete defence to a claim - so landlords should keep up to date and be ready to go with the new forms when the time comes.
What isn't included
The government recently published its Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, setting out headline grabbing plans to tackle ASB including a 'three strikes' policy. There are no proposed amendments to any grounds for possession to introduce such an idea within this Bill.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.