Residential landlord and tenant law update: October 2021
A number of temporary legislative changes came into force in the midst of the pandemic to protect tenants from being evicted out of privately rented homes at short notice, given the financial and personal struggles the pandemic has caused. The continuous changes have led to a lot of confusion for both landlords and tenants alike.
Now, with life beginning to return back to somewhat pre-pandemic norms for many, legislation set out in the Coronavirus Act 2020 (CVA 2020) relating to residential possession proceedings has also been suspended and reverted back to the legislation of pre-pandemic times in England.
Landlords and tenants alike both need to be aware of the changes that came into effect on the 1st October 2021 in regards to residential possession proceedings, to understand their rights.
The latest changes suspend paragraphs 5 to 10(1) of Schedule 29 in the CVA 2020, meaning that the minimum notice periods set out in the new versions of Section 21 and Section 8 notices within the Housing Act 1988 (HA 1988) are back to pre-pandemic timescales.
The minimum notice periods landlords must give on assured shorthold tenancies are now much shorter again, with current minimum periods at:
- Two months notice if serving a Section 21 notice (where no grounds for possession need to be given once the fixed-term agreement has expired). The notice period on a Section 21 notice must also not expire before the end of the fixed term on the tenancy.
- Two months if serving a Section 8 notice using grounds of 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9 or 16 set out under Section 8 of the HA 1988 in which the notice period must not expire before the end of the fixed term on the tenancy agreement.
- Two weeks if serving a Section 8 notice on grounds 8, 10 or 11 (rent arrears) set out under Section 8 of the HA 1988.
- Two weeks if serving a Section 8 notice on grounds 3, 4, 7b, 12, 13, 14a, 15 or 17 of anti-social behaviour or by breaking an aspect of the tenancy agreement set out under Section 8 of the HA 1988.
- One month if serving a Section 8 notice using ground 7a – anti-social behaviour with a conviction set out under Section 8 of the HA 1988.
- 24 hours after serving a Section 8 notice using ground 14 set out under Section 8 of the HA 1988 (Discretionary grounds for anti-social behaviour).
It is important to note that landlords must always ensure when serving notice, the latest version of the prescribed forms published by the Government are used and they serve the notice following the correct rules. Failure to use the latest versions of prescribed forms and following the rules on serving a notice can invalidate any notice that has been given.
Form 3 and Form 6a have both been amended in response to the new changes. Form 3 has also been renamed to “Notice of intention to begin proceedings for possession” which was previously named “Notice seeking possession”.
Furthermore, supporting information provided in bullet-points in the previous Form 3 is now available in a separate document: Notes for Form 3. Within this document, there is a section “Guidance for tenants” suggesting landlords should also serve these notes with a Form 3. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & communities has also updated the Notes for Form 6A and its Technical guidance on eviction notices in light of the changes to possession proceedings.
Whilst these changes look set to stay, it is worth noting that the temporary laws have been suspended, by the Amendment and Suspension Regulations, not abolished completely. Therefore if another lockdown happens, the Government still retains the flexibility to impose longer notice periods again until 25 March 2022. It’s worth therefore keeping up to date with any changes that might affect you in future.
Many landlords have tried to support tenants to find a suitable way forward and avoid possession proceedings during the pandemic. It’s still worth considering where possible, whether landlords can work with tenants to come to an amicable solution that avoids going through possession proceedings, as it has been widely published, that the pandemic has and is continuing to cause long delays for court hearings and bailiffs dealing with evictions.
If you’re a landlord or tenant that requires legal advice or assistance on a residential tenancy matter, contact our specialist property team on 01484 442 700 (Holmfirth) or 0161 427 0084 (Marple Bridge).
Written by Jonathan Cass