Fundamental reform of residential tenancies: How this could work in practice for Estates & Private Clients


As the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill makes its way through Parliament, lawyer Kevin Kennedy talks us through what possible the end of the section 21 process could mean for property owners.

Kevin has a national reputation as an agricultural and private client lawyer. His particular focus in on agricultural disputes, trust and probate disputes, and partnership issues. He is closely involved in sustainability issues as they impact on rural land and on private clients. Kevin is a director of the Sustainable Soils Alliance and the hon solicitor to the Soil Association Land Trust. He is a member of the Agricultural Law Association and the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists. He is also the author of 'Neighbour Disputes - Law and Practice’ published by The Law Society (2009) and a contributor to 'Pink Book 2 – The Burges Salmon Guide for Landowners and Farmers' (2014).

The Renters Reform Bill has been a long time coming, but has been endorsed along the way by successive Conservative governments (writes Kevin Kennedy). The political arguments about it will focus on the balance of long-term tenants’ security of tenure, and the benefits that can bring vs the protection of landlords’ interests vs the benefit to society of having an effective and fair private rented sector.

If it makes it through Parliament it will fundamentally change how residential tenancies work, with the end of the section 21 process – that is the no fault method of eviction where a residential tenancy can be brought to an end for any reason, usually on 2 months’ notice.  This is very important for Estates and Private Client landlords, where residential lettings can be of significant value and highly cash-generative.

But in practice, So What?  The issue we see is that some element of fault on the part of the tenant or a special circumstance will have to be proved to a Judge’s satisfaction in order to gain possession of a property, and we know from long experience of doing these cases that this means they:

  • can be uncertain
  • take time
  • cost more.

The court system presently feels as if it is creaking, particularly in the County Courts, where almost all of these cases will be heard (and the courts are perhaps an area of our national infrastructure where greater renewal is required).  What that means in practice is that all of the uncertainty/time/cost factors are likely to be greater. Judges take their power to evict tenants very seriously, and do not order evictions lightly, so they will need to be satisfied that the statutory criteria are met, and landlords are unlikely to be cut much slack.

This sounds a bit doom-laden, but is hopefully a realistic view.

What to do about it?  This set of reforms has flown under the radar for a long time but now they are coming live and the key thing first of all is to get an understanding of what they involve and how that may have an impact on you. Then start to plan for the future, if they come into force.

Further Reading

Property Industry Reactions: Rental Reform Bill promises ‘a once-in-a-generation overhaul of housing laws’ (May 2023)