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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 6 months notice periods on tenancies are over, the bad news is that the notice periods have been extended to at least 4 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.

In the middle of May 2021 the Government made a number of announcements which included the notice period for seeking possession that was currently 6 months would be reduced to at least 4 months. These changes would only apply to Notices sent on or after 1 June 2021 until the end of September 2021.  However, if there is less than 4 months rent arrears, only a 2 months notice will be required from 1 August 2021 until the end of September 2021.

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.

In brighter news, shorter notice periods are applicable in the following situations for notices dated on or after 1 June 2021:

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

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 between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021 these changes will not impact on the notice you gave. It may be that you will be able to serve a new notice on your tenant, on a without prejudice basis, but you will need to consider whether this will be worth the time and potential costs.  

What happens to section 21?

Under the Housing Act 1988 (amended by the Deregulation Act 2015), you have 8 months to enforce your section 21 notice from the date of issue. Therefore, as you have to provide your tenant with a 4 month notice period, you will only have 4 months from then end of this notice to issue possession proceedings at the court.

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

While mortgage holidays are officially no longer available, we would suggest you speak to your lender if you are struggling to meet your mortgage payments due to your tenant’s financial difficulty.

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.