Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants at short notice and without good reason under a major shake-up of the rental sector, the Government has said.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the move would end the threat of so-called “no-fault” evictions which give tenants as little as eight weeks’ notice after a fixed-term contract has come to an end.
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire said the proposed changes would effectively create open-ended tenancies.
Announcing a consultation process on Monday, Mr Brokenshire said the Government was taking action because of evidence that the end of tenancies through the so-called Section 21 process is one of the biggest causes of family homelessness.
Campaigners welcomed the proposals, although the National Landlords Association warned of “chaos” if the Government introduces “badly thought-out” legislation that could put investors off creating more homes.
Mrs May said private sector renters have the right “to feel secure in their home, settled in their community and able to plan for the future with confidence”.
“But, millions of responsible tenants could still be uprooted by their landlord with little notice, and often little justification,” she said.
“This is wrong – and today we’re acting by preventing these unfair evictions.
“Landlords will still be able to end tenancies where they have legitimate reasons to do so, but they will no longer be able to unexpectedly evict families with only eight weeks’ notice.”
Mr Brokenshire said: “By abolishing these kinds of evictions, every single person living in the private rented sector will be empowered to make the right housing choice for themselves – not have it made for them.
“And this will be balanced by ensuring responsible landlords can get their property back where they have proper reason to do so.”
The proposals would see landlords having to provide a “concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law” for bringing tenancies to an end.
At present landlords can evict tenants at any time after the fixed-term contract has come to an end, and without specifying a reason.
Shelter said the proposals represent “an outstanding victory for England’s 11 million private renters”.
“This change will slam the brakes on unstable short-term tenancies and give tenants everywhere a massive boost in security, for which the government will deserve great credit,” its chief executive, Polly Neate, said.
“Getting this new legislation through parliament is critical to people being able to stay in their rented home as long as they need, so we look forward to the government passing this law as quickly as possible.”
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “Any promise of new help for renters is good news, but this latest pledge won’t work if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking the rent.
“For nine years, the Tories have failed to tackle problems facing private renters. Tenants need new rights and protections across the board to end costly rent increases and sub-standard homes as well as to stop unfair evictions.
“Labour is committed to giving renters the rights they deserve, including control on rents, indefinite tenancies and new legal minimum standards.”
Labour’s London mayor Sadiq Khan said it is “crucial” the Government adopts the proposals as soon as possible.
“Even this Government can no longer ignore the fact that the private rented sector is totally unfit for purpose, as Londoners struggle with huge rents and deposits, ongoing insecurity, and often poor-quality housing,” he said.
David Smith, of the Residential Landlords Association, said the body recognised there were calls for change, but warned of “serious dangers” of getting such reforms wrong.
“With the demand for private rented homes continuing to increase, we need the majority of good landlords to have confidence to invest in new homes,” he said.
“This means ensuring they can swiftly repossess properties for legitimate reasons such as rent arrears, tenant anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell them. This needs to happen before any moves are made to end Section 21.”
National Landlords Association chief executive Richard Lambert said property owners had to use Section 21 because they have “no confidence” in the courts to deal with possession claims “quickly and surely”.
“If the Government introduces yet another piece of badly thought-out legislation, we guarantee there will be chaos,” Mr Lambert told the BBC.
A Ministry of Housing spokesman said: “Court processes will also be expedited so landlords are able to swiftly and smoothly regain their property in the rare event of tenants falling into rent arrears or damaging the property – meaning landlords have the security of knowing disputes will be resolved quickly.”