Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants at short notice without good reason under new government plans.
The change is intended to protect renters from “unethical” landlords, the government said.
Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict renters without a reason at the end of their fixed term tenancy.
The National Landlords Association said the move would create “chaos” and make fixed term contracts “meaningless”.
But an organisation representing tenants said the plans were “a vital first step to ending profiteering from housing”.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced similar plans for Wales, while in Scotland new rules requiring landlords to give a reason for ending tenancies were introduced in 2017.
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire called the proposals “the biggest change to the private rental sector in a generation”.
He said the government was taking action because evidence showed that so-called Section 21 evictions were one of the biggest causes of family homelessness.
“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,” he said.
A survey of 2,001 private renters by Citizens Advice suggests that landlords were using Section 21 evictions to retaliate against tenants rather than fixing problems with their properties.
Tenants who made a formal complaint had a 46% chance of being evicted within the next six months.
‘Peace of mind’
At the moment, landlords can give tenants as little as eight weeks’ notice after a fixed-term contract ends.
Under the government’s new plans, landlords would have to provide a “concrete, evidenced reason already specified in law” in order to bring tenancies to an end.
Mrs May said the major shake-up will protect responsible tenants from “unethical behaviour” and give them the “long-term certainty and the peace of mind they deserve”.
The prime minister also said the government was acting to prevent “unfair evictions”.
‘We were evicted for complaining about a roof leak’
Alicia Powell, 24, and her boyfriend believe they were evicted for complaining about a roof leak in their north London flat.
They complained to their property manager but nothing was done so they said they were going to report it to their local council.
Shortly afterwards they were served with a Section 21 notice.
‘There will be chaos’
But the National Landlords Association (NLA) is dissatisfied with the government’s plans.
Its chief executive Richard Lambert said landlords have little choice but to use Section 21 as they have “no confidence” in the courts to deal with possession claims “quickly and surely”.
Mr Lambert said the proposed changes make fixed-term contracts “meaningless” and create a new system of indefinite tenancies by the “back door”.
“The onus is on the government to get this right. It’s entirely dependent on the government’s ability to re-balance the system through Section 8 and court process so that it works for landlords and tenants alike,” he said.
A Section 8 possession notice means the renter has broken the terms of their tenancy – for example by not paying rent – and sometimes involves landlords spending money taking action in court if the tenants refuse to leave.
“If the government introduces yet another piece of badly thought-out legislation, we guarantee there will be chaos,” Mr Lambert added.
Mr Brokenshire said the government will ensure “responsible landlords can get their property back where they have proper reason to do so”.
And Amina Gichinga from London Renters Union – which has been campaigning for the end of no-fault evictions – said: “This campaign success is a vital first step to ending profiteering from housing and towards a housing model based on homes for people, not profit.
“Section 21 is a pernicious piece of legislation that renters across the country will be glad to see the back of.
“The law allows landlords to evict their tenants at a moment’s notice, leaving misery and homelessness in its wake. This fear of eviction discourages renters from complaining about disrepair and poor conditions.”
‘An outstanding victory’
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.”
Shelter, a charity which helps people struggling with bad housing or homelessness, welcomed the proposals.
Its chief executive Polly Neate said: “Government plans to abolish no-fault evictions represent an outstanding victory for England’s 11 million private renters.”
She said the plans will “transform lives”.
Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said that any promise of help for renters is “good news” but added that “this latest pledge won’t work if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking the rent”.
The Labour party previously said it would scrap so-called Section 21 evictions, among a host of other reforms to the rental sector.
“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,” Mr Healy added.