9:35 AM, 1st June 2023, About 6 months ago 18
Hello, will selling up be a mandatory ground in the Renters’ Reform Bill? Like others, I was concerned that while the white paper mentioned a new mandatory ground for persistent rent arrears the new proposed ground to enable a landlord to gain possession in order to sell or move themselves or a relative did not mention the word “mandatory”.
The feeling was that this could be a deliberate omission and not just an oversight and could open up the possibility that a court could prevent a landlord from selling when they wanted to. All I could find online in relation to the Renter’s Reform Bill as currently published (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-03/0308/220308.pdf) is basically a list of insertions and deletions to be made to the existing 1988 Housing Act rather than a document in its own right.
On the reasonable assumption that eviction Grounds 1-8 in Section 8 will still be mandatory as they are now, the Renters Reform Bill will add a couple of new mandatory items to Section 1 (which currently covers a landlord or relative moving in). The new sections 1A and 1B both have a common item as a Ground A: “The landlord who is seeking possession intends to sell the dwelling-house;” there are some other provisions under items 1A and 1B which do not appear to me to apply to a typical PRS landlord. So, maybe the concerns are unfounded, if they are it’s a pity the government didn’t make it crystal clear.
The current Section 8 does not make any provisions for selling up mandatory or otherwise as, presumably Section 21 currently would take care of this eventuality. As Selling up (and moving in) will be a mandatory ground and involves no more proof than the landlord expressing a desire to do so, this would lend itself to a simple online procedure with no need for court appearances. Just fill in an online form upload some documents like the tenancy agreement and gas certificate, pay a fee and that’s it, possession order is quickly granted to give to the tenant along with the Section 8 notice (or it could incorporate the Section 8 notice) and no court delays. Once the due leaving date has passed without the tenant leaving, the possession document could also serve as authorisation to appoint bailiffs. Maybe that is too much to hope for.
What is not clear is how a landlord would be prevented from evicting to sell or move in and then not actually doing either and re-letting the property. The solution could be in the proposed landlord registration scheme mentioned in the Bill. Not only will a landlord be registered but so will every property they rent out. Under the scheme it will be illegal to advertise a property for rent unless the property registration number is present (which is a good way to ensure everyone does register). In order to gain possession to sell the property the registration number would have to crop up somewhere in the proceedings.
So if the landlord tried to rent out the property again the property number could be cross referenced by a potential tenant or letting agent to see if the property was actually available to rent, a sort of reverse “right to rent” procedure. While the letting ban could last until the property is actually sold, maybe there could be a statute of limitations, if the landlord did not actually sell they would not be able to rent the property out again (officially at least) for, say, two years. If the property was actually sold the property could be removed from the register as part of the conveyancing process.
The act makes it quite likely that there could well be a charge for the registration scheme, the Ombudsman scheme etc. if the Secretary of State sees fit (and I am sure that they will) there will be nice contract up for grabs to set it all up. Hopefully the government will give the contract to a UK based contractor who had nothing to do with “Track and Trace” or the Post office “Horizon” system or anybody with government connections.
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