Residential Landlords, Letting Agents and others involved in the housing sector will be familiar with the fact that one impact of Covid-19 has been to add a great deal of additional complexity to the notice and eviction process.
We have had various changes to the prescribed form of Notice (relating to both Section 8 and Section 21 Notices), a variety of changes to the notice periods required and of course the eviction ban, which came into force on 11 December 2020 and has been extended a number of times. It would be fair to say that it has never been more difficult to evict a residential tenant.
Whilst professional advisers have become used to announcements and regulations being published on a Friday afternoon, ahead of implementation a few days later, the latest round of changes have actually been announced in advance, meaning that Landlords have no excuse not to ensure that their house is in order and proper procedures are followed.
This is a rundown of the key changes that Landlords should be aware of.
The Government has now confirmed that this will come to an end on 31 May 2021, with no further extensions. This should mean that Warrants of Possession which have already been applied for should start to be executed in June 2021. Clearly there will be a significant backlog and ongoing delays are to be expected, although it is understood that Courts will continue to prioritise the most serious cases, including those involving anti-social behaviour.
In respect of the notice periods, the Government has announced that there will be a tapering off period between 1 June and 30 September 2021. The minimum notice period, which for most cases has been six months, will be reduced to four months, and it is expected that it will return to the pre-pandemic level of two months from October 2021 (although this final point has not yet been confirmed and is subject to further Government announcements and public health advice).
Exceptions for rent arrears
The devil is, of course, in the detail and there remain exceptions to the standard notice period as has been the case throughout the pandemic. The most important change to identify however is that from 1 June 2021 the rent arrears exception will change so that only four weeks’ notice is required where the rent arrears are over four months (rather than the current six months).
Where the arrears are less than four months the notice period will reduce to four months on 1 June 2021 and then reduce again to two months on 1 August 2021. This means extra care will need to be taken throughout the remainder of this year to ensure that the correct notice period is applied. If a Notice is served which contains an incorrect notice period then it is likely the Notice will be held to be invalid and therefore any subsequent proceedings will be destined for failure.
Exceptions for other serious cases
Notice periods will also remain lower for the following serious cases:-
- Anti-social behaviour – immediate to 4 weeks’ notice
- Breach of immigration rules – 2 weeks’ notice
- Domestic abuse in the social sector – 2 to 4 weeks’ notice
- False statement – 2 to 4 weeks’ notice
- Death of a tenant – 2 months’ notice
New prescribed forms have already been published which will take effect from 1 June 2021, and will therefore replace those which were only introduced at the beginning of May 2021. One positive is that the new Section 8 form already deals with the August changes within it, meaning that we should be able to use that same form for the whole period between June to September 2021.
Issuing Possession Proceedings
The period in which possession proceedings can be issued following service of a Section 21 Notice will reduce from ten months from the date of service to eight months from the date of service.
Now more than ever, the service of Notices, ensuring that you are using the correct prescribed form and that your Notice period is correct, is far from straightforward. If you are intending on serving any Notices please do take care and if in doubt, or you require any advice or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact David Low on 0191 3755060 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.