The Government has recently announced that there will be an extension of the amount of notice which must be given to tenants prior to the issue of the vast majority of possession claims.
Since the national lockdown was implemented in late March 2020, the notice period for virtually all new proceedings has been three months. However, following the making of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies; Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020, the Government has made further changes. The amended legislation requires that from 29th August 2020, landlords have to provide a notice period of at least six months in the vast majority of circumstances. The changes cover England and Wales only. In England, they will apply until at least 31st March 2021. In Wales, they will lapse on 30th September 2020 unless the Welsh Government decides to extend them. It is important to note however that the changes do not have retrospective effect, and notices issued between 24th March and 28th August 2020 will remain valid assuming three months’ notice has been given.
For landlords seeking to issue proceedings from 29th August, the six-month notice period applies in all but a very limited number of circumstances, including for both Section 21 notices and cases where there are rent arrears of under six months. Landlords in these cases are also encouraged to do everything necessary to try and negotiate with their tenants to reduce the rent arrears without recourse to Court.
However, for landlords in the most serious cases such as those involving domestic abuse or antisocial behaviour, and those with tenants in more than six months’ worth of rent arrears, it has become easier to take possession. The notice periods for these cases have in fact been reduced. The exact notice period that applies depends on the nature of the proceedings and ranges from two weeks to four weeks. Landlords should however be aware that it is likely the Courts will be extremely strict on compliance when these exemptions apply and are advised to seek expert advice if they believe they may qualify for an exemption before issuing a notice to their tenants.
Assuming a notice has been validly issued, and the tenant does not leave, the Courts will start considering claims for possession again once the Government lifts the stay. At the time of writing this is currently scheduled to take place on 20th September, although further extensions are a distinct possibility.
The cumulative effects of these changes are that it is likely to continue to be extremely difficult for a landlord to obtain possession of their property through the Courts for some time to come.
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If you are a tenant worried about eviction, or a landlord seeking advice on how to resolve an issue with their tenant, our solicitors would be pleased to assist. We offer a fixed fee meeting at £95 including VAT in which we can discuss your issue and offer you some preliminary advice. We would encourage all meetings to be held remotely where possible and offer both telephone and video conferencing options. To book a meeting please call our team on 01189589711 or e-mail [email protected].