Residential Evictions Remain on Pause as Notice Periods Increase
14th September 2020 by Byron Sims
Many landlords and letting agents had been awaiting the 23rd of August with some anticipation, as this was the date on which the stay on possession proceedings was due to end. However, at the last minute, this position was changed.
What is the background?
Possession proceedings were stayed earlier in the year. This means that any existing or new claims by landlords to evict tenants were effectively “paused”. The “pause” was due to end last month, subject to certain rules, as we discussed here.
What has happened with the stay?
It appears that the government bowed to pressure on this issue and changed its position on allowing possession proceedings to start again. The date on which possession proceedings can restart is now 20 September 2020. However, it is likely that there will be a backlog of cases when the stay is lifted.
Are there any other significant changes?
Very much so. The government has now changed the notice periods which landlords are required to give tenants. Depending on the procedure used (broadly speaking, under section 21 or section 8 of the Housing Act 1988), the notice period can now range from no notice up to six months’ notice.
What has changed with section 21?
Under this “no-fault” 21 procedure, landlords need only give tenants the correct notice in order to be eligible for a court order for possession, subject to certain provisions.
The notice period had historically been two months, which was increased to three months when the stay was introduced. This has now been increased again, to six months.
And section 8?
Under the section 8 procedure the landlord needs to rely on certain grounds, usually involving some kind of breach on the tenant’s part. The notice periods under this procedure had also been increased to three months.
The situation now is significantly more complicated and notice periods vary depending on the ground on which the landlord is relying. For faults such as being in arrears for rent, the notice period can be up to six months. However, for breaches which involve an anti-social element, it may be unnecessary to give any notice at all and proceedings can potentially be started as soon as the notice is served. The question of arrears is further complicated by having two different potential notice periods depending on the amount owed.
Interestingly, if the tenant is involved in genuine anti-social behaviour but also in arrears, the lesser notice period can be used. This may be tempting for landlords and agents. However, it is very likely that such a claim will be investigated thoroughly, meaning that the court is likely to take a hard line against cases which are not viewed as proper examples of anti-social behaviour.
How long will this last?
Currently, it is envisaged that these rules will apply until 31 March 2021.
If you or your business needs any assistance navigating the fast changing process of recovering possession of residential property, please contact our team today and we will be happy to help.