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 and give them more long-term security.
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 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.
The National Landlords Association (NLA) said its members should be able to use a Section 8 possession notice to evict someone who has broken the terms of their tenancy – for example by not paying rent.
This sometimes involves landlords spending money taking action in court if the tenants refuse to leave.
But NLA chief executive Richard Lambert said many landlords were forced to use Section 21 as they have “no confidence” in the courts to deal with Section 8 applications “quickly and surely”.
He said the proposed changes would create a new system of indefinite tenancies by the “back door”, and the focus should be on improving the Section 8 and court process instead.
A Ministry of Housing spokesman said court processes would “also be expedited so landlords are able to swiftly and smoothly regain their property” where such a move is justified.
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’
Shelter, a charity which helps people struggling with bad housing or homelessness, said the proposals would “transform lives”.
Chief executive Polly Neate said: “Government plans to abolish no-fault evictions represent an outstanding victory for England’s 11 million private renters.”
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.