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Clarification provided for residential landlords regarding tenancy notice periods

View profile for Mollie Leak
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With several updates and changes in recent months, it’s understandable that residential landlords may be feeling slightly confused about where they stand regarding their possession proceedings or the notice periods. The good news is that the 3 months notice periods on tenancies are over, the bad news is that the notice periods have been extended to 6 months, leaving some landlords in an ugly situation. Mollie Leak, Solicitor in our Litigation and Dispute Resolution team, summarises the recent Government announcements and answers a variety of the key questions we are being asked at this turbulent time.

Towards the end of August the Government made a number of announcements. The first was to extend further the stay on possession proceedings. This stay means that there will not be a possession hearing until 21 September 2020. This third, and hopefully final, stay means that there would not have been a possession order made since the end of March 2020.  

The second announcement was that the Government was due to extend the statutory notice period for seeking possession from 3 months to 6 months. Prior to lockdown, if your tenant had failed to pay 2 months’ rent you had to give them 2 weeks notice to leave the property under Ground 8. Likewise, for a no fault s.21 notice, landlords would only have to provide their tenant with 2 months’ notice.

When the announcement of the extended stay was initially announced there was no date to go along with it. However, with only 24 hours notice, the Government announced that any notices served on or after 29 August 2020 would now have to give the tenant 6 months’ notice seeking possession.

In brighter news, shorter notice periods are applicable in the following situations:

  • anti-social behaviour (now 4 weeks’ notice)
  • domestic abuse (now 2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • false statement (now 2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • over 6 months’ accumulated rent arrears (now 4 weeks’ notice)
  • breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (now 3 months’ notice)

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020, which imposes these new changes has also confirmed that the extended notice periods will be in force until 31 March 2021.

What do these new changes mean for landlords who have already served a notice?

These new changes are not retrospective and so if you served notice on or before 28 August 2020 these changes will not come into force.

What happens to section 21?

Under the Housing Act 1988 (amended by the Deregulation Act 2015), you have 6 months to enforce your section 21 notice from the date of issue. With this time being taken up by the longer notice period, this puts landlords in a difficult situation.

However, the Government has announced that possession procedures commenced under s.21 will now have 10 months from the date of their notice to issue possession proceedings.

What happens if the tenant refuses to pay rent and the landlord is unable to pay the mortgage on the property?

Mortgage holidays of up to 3 months (which may be able to be extended by a further 3 months) should still be available. The deadline to apply for a mortgage holiday is 31 October 2020.

If you have already used your mortgage holiday as your tenant has failed to pay rent, then this would suggest that your tenant is 6 months in rent arrears. However, if your tenant is paying a small amount towards the rent and so the arrears total less than 6 months, you will not be able to use the shorter notice period of 4 weeks.

In this situation, it is important to keep the mortgage company updated with the situation. Likewise, Mollie advises that it may also be helpful to keep the tenant updated as well.

As ever, it is a very difficult time for both landlords and tenants and so it is best to try to keep communication open between both parties and try to resolve matters without the need to go to court.  We have all become used to changes from the Government, occasionally with little notice and so you should always seek legal advice pertinent to your own situation at the time of your question. This advice is also still subject to interpretation by the Courts.

 If you are a landlord with questions about how you can proceed over the coming weeks and months, you can contact Mollie on 023 8071 7487 or email mollieleak@warnergoodman.co.uk.  While we are not taking appointments at our offices, we are still open for business with our teams working from home, and are able to support you during this time of need.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  We accept no liability for the content of this material.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.