Good News for Landlords – “Normal” possession notice periods are back.
From 1st October 2021 the original notice periods for notices seeking possession under Housing Act 1988 are applicable meaning rent arrears notices will run for 2 weeks and section 21 “no fault” notices will run for 2 months.
In May 2021, the Government laid out its path for the removal of COVID -19 restrictions. Previously the Government has expressed a determination that no “renter” would be evicted due to the pandemic. Amongst the measures taken to put that into effect, the Government extended the notice periods for possession proceedings for residential properties to up to 6 months. This has been varied on a number of occasions in the meantime and reduced more recently. However, this has still meant that landlords wanting possession either through the “ no fault” s21 Notice or due to often very high rent arrears, have faced substantial delays before being able to issue possession proceedings.
Although the Government has reserved the option of not reducing the notice periods to the original times if controlling the pandemic warranted it, currently there is no indication the Government is going to do so but please note the Covid -19 legislation that extended the original time periods is still in place until 25th March 2022 and is technically suspend from 1st October but that suspension can be lifted if the Government considers control of the pandemic warrants it .
From 1 October 2021, the notice periods for obtaining possession will be as follows:-
Section 8 Notices – For Rent Arrears
When issuing a notice under Grounds 8, 10 and 11 of Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, the notice period will be two weeks.
Section 21 Notices – Assured Shorthold Tenancies (“No Fault”)
For Notices Seeking Possession under s21 Housing Act 1988, the notice period will be at least two months .
Other periods apply for other Grounds for possession and are reverting to the pre pandemic regulations notice periods.
In addition the Government is issuing new prescribed forms of the s8 and s21 notices from 1st October so do ensure that the latest version is used.
This is now an appropriate time for landlords or their agents to check their papers to ensure that any s21 Notice served is not invalid for other reasons.
Important points to consider when issuing a notice seeking possession:-
It is imperative that Landlords and their agents ensure that the correct documentation has been passed to the Tenant at the relevant times during the tenancy. If it has not this could render the section 21 notice invalid.
Additionally, it is important to note that a section 21 notice will be rendered invalid if the property is not registered as an HMO when it should have been or if the Local Authority have served notices regarding disrepair.
The Claim for accelerated possession proceedings now requires copies of all the documentation to be attached to the claim form. Any landlord should assume that a diligent lawyer acting for the tenant or any Judge will review the papers to check compliance as a matter of course. We can advise of the action to be taken if not all documents have been served.
Landlords and their agents should therefore ensure that they have a full set of appropriate papers when anticipating serving an s21 notice or seeking an order on rent arrears. Any failure to comply could lead to the tenant seeking payments to offset the rent arrears if the deposit is not registered or through a rent repayment order.
The documents Tenants should have are;
- Copy of all tenancies with the current occupier
- Copy of all gas appliance safety checks
- Copy of all EPC certificates. As they run for 10 years there may be more than one.
- Copy of all “How to Rent” leaflets served. These will vary over the years.
- If a deposit has been paid, copy of all deposit registration certificates and prescribed information given to the tenant on each renewal and the tenancy deposit protection provider’s information on the deposit scheme. If a third party including a Local Authority or Guarantor has paid the deposit then they may well have to have been served with the deposit information as well as the tenant, including those supplied by the relevant tenancy deposit scheme.
- Details of any deposit monies returned to the tenant and also of any repayment of any part of the deposit so the sum held is less than 5 weeks’ worth of rent and any other fees that are now prohibited have been returned.
- A copy of the tenant acknowledging receipt of the items 2,3,4 and 5 or at least that it was provided to the tenant or to show he/she had the opportunity to acknowledge receipt
- Check if the property needs to be licensed as an HMO bearing in mind the local Council has its own definition of an HMO under Additional licence provisions or the property is in a ward where selective licencing applies so the licensing criteria is on the location of the property, not based on the number of occupiers/floors etc. Even if the letting is to a single individual in a one person flat it must still have an HMO licence if in such a ward.
A landlord or agent may also want to check that a Right to Rent check has been done and the result. This is not relevant to the possession proceedings but the Landlord has an obligation to do this and should bear in mind that once a child occupier becomes 18, a right to rent check must be done on that person.
If the tenancy or renewal was carried out by a competent letting agent then they should have all of this to hand. The deposit information is particularly important as if it has not been done correctly the current owner is responsible for the repayment of the deposit and a penalty of three times the deposit even if the failure was by the previous owner.
In considering serving any notices or issuing proceedings we also review if there are any issues concerning past and present rent arrears (and any proceedings) and repairs including if the Council have been involved and issued any improvement notices or similar or other prosecution.
The above should also be considered in the context of the Government’s commitment to abolish s21 evictions under the Renters’ Reform Bill and reform the grounds for possession.
If you have any queries contact Jeremy Teall – Litigation Partner and Head of Landlord and Tenant
Written by: Jeremy Teall – Litigation Partner and Head of Landlord and Tenant – firstname.lastname@example.org – Tel: 020 8799 1890