Further changes to legislation have now been made again to the notice period when evicting a tenant.
Landlords must now give their tenants 6 months’ notice before they can evict their tenants. This will remain in force until March 2021.
6 month notice period to evict tenants
The Government has made it clear; it will do all it can to control COVID-19. These Notice period changes which ends in March 2021 could be extended again if we have a second wave of COVID-19.
What are the exceptions to the 6 months notice period?
The exception to the 6-month notice period is for the most serious of cases, such as:
- Incidents of anti-social behaviour
- Perpetrators of domestic abuse
- Six months accumulated rent arrears
- False Statement made by a tenant
- Breach of immigration rules’ Right to Rent’
It is important to note: Notice served on a tenant before 28th August 2020 are not affected by the above changes. However, the notice period must be at least three months.
Courts will deal with possession claims after 20th of September
The ban on eviction has been extended again too, until 20th September 2020. Which means courts will not list any possession claims to be heard before 20th September 2020.
For the more serious cases, notice periods have returned to their pre-COVID-19 levels. Landlords with serious rent arrears will be able to progress their possession claims that much quicker. However, the county courts were creaking with work overload even before the Coronavirus.
Concern how quickly courts can deal with possession claims
With a huge backlog of possession claims and non-possession claims when the county court opens its doors, how they will manage is a concern.
The 28 rule where a possession claim must be listed upon issue has recently been deleted from the Court’s rule book.
Deadlines and notice periods are all good and well-intended to deliver a quicker process for the most serious cases. However, no changes have been announced how the county courts are going to deal with possession claims backlog. For that matter, how are they going to deal with any of the cases possession or non-possession?
Many of the county courts were closed in the last few years, burdening the other remaining county courts with the extra workload.
When county courts could no longer cope, most shut their doors to the counter service.
Anyone with experience in dealing with our county courts will know pre-COVID-19 they were struggling to deal with the workload.
Landlords may have some good news that for the more serious cases, they can progress their possession claims; in reality, the justice system is failing them.
No time frame when courts hear a possession claim
When you have a non-paying tenant, it is right you expect the courts to deal with your possession claim swiftly. That will no longer be the cases, as I have stated the 28-day rule has been deleted. The courts will list a possession claim when they can. That might be a long wait in the London courts.
If anyone has any doubt about our county courts, they just need to type into Google the name of the Court, any court. Example say “Central London County court” and read under business listings the comments the court users have posted. I rest my case!
It is not the court staff or judges, with increasing pressure they are doing an excellent job, it is government cutbacks that have caused the problem.
Now I have had my moan let’s continue with the Extension of notice period:
With these new changes from 29th August 2020, landlords must provide at least 6 months’ notice period.
The six-month rule applies to section 21, and section 8 notices. If you just want your property back or you have a breach of tenancy, you will have to give your tenant 6 months’ notice by using a section 21 or section 8 notice.
What is the new Notice period to evict a tenant?
The only exceptions to the 6 months rule are as below:
The new notice periods for bad tenants, a saving grace for some landlords:
- Anti-social behaviour (now 4 weeks’ notice) our comments below 1#
- Domestic abuse – now 2 to 4 weeks’ notice. our comments #2
- False Statement – now 2 to 4 weeks’ notice. our comments #3
- 6 months’ or more accumulated rent arrears – now 4 weeks’ notice. our comments below #4
- Breach of immigration rules under ‘Right to Rent’ – now 3 months’ notice) Our comments below #5
1# This used to be in some cases under section 8 notice ground 14. This was the only ground out of all the 17 grounds that had no waiting period. Which meant you could serve a notice and immediately issue a possession claim. The time period from no period has gone up to 4 weeks. Depending on the tenancy clauses you may also be able to use Ground 12.
We are waiting for clarity on how the two weeks or four weeks comes into play. Is it two weeks or four weeks?
2# Domestic abuse cases for possession claims generally are problematic, seek advice from our member’s helpline if you want to consider this option.
3# This one is a bit tricky and uncertain, and we are waiting for clarity on this. False Statement or information to adduce a tenancy is under ground 17, which was a ground added later in the housing act. However, is the intention that a landlord may use this time period for ground 12 or is it strictly limited to ground 17 as intended as enacted under the Housing Act 1996?
We are waiting for clarity on this from the ministry of justice.
4# Fantastic news, but what steps have been taken to expedite the possession claims when a landlord issues a claim?
No point having the notice period go back to pre-COVID-19 if the Court is going to take another six months to listen to the case. The governments need to assure landlords urgent cases are dealt as such, urgent!
From the 20th September, landlords will need to provide information with their claim about tenant’s circumstances, including information on how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected them.
If this information is not provided or the information is not sufficient, County court judges can adjourn the possession claim. In our opinion, this is likely to be one of the first thing judges will look at even before you step into the courtroom. We have already primed our members on this issue and created documents and templates members can use. If the Ministry of justice does provide templates or prescribed documents, you should use them if they do not use our documents to assist you.
Existing possession claims need to be re-activated
The requirement to re-activate existing Possession claim
If a possession claim was issued before 3rd August, landlords (claimant) must notify the Court and the tenant that they still intend to proceed with the possession claim. Failing to do this will mean your claim will not proceed and be stayed.
Possession claims under section 21, including accelerated possession claims, also need to serve notice of re-activation.
We have been informed fine details regarding some of the changes will be available from the Government, as soon as we have them, we will publish them with our comments.
Secretary of State for Housing, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “We have been working closely with the judiciary through a Master of the Rolls, led Working Group to finalise the arrangements on the prioritisation of cases, for when the stay on possession proceedings lifts from 20th September.”
He added: “29th August, landlords must provide at least 6 months’ notice period prior to seeking possession through the courts in most cases, including section 21 evictions and rent arrears under 6 months. We have also extended the validity of a section 21 notice from 6 to 10 months to accommodate this change.”
Mr Sasha Charles, the CEO of Landlord Advice UK, one of the leading national eviction lawyers, said: This announcement is a move in the right direction, but we are concerned, no announcement has been made how the courts are going to deal with the backlog of claims generally let alone possession claim”. He said.
Landlords in England need Government financial help
Mr Sajjad Ahmad, the CEO of the British Landlords Association, said: “We will wait for the fine details on this announcement before we can make any comments. However, our concern is to the best of our knowledge; no steps have been taken to put in place measures to deal with the Court backlog of cases.”
“Some of the changes made by the Government have triggers where the claim for possession can be delayed or struck out. Landlords will need to be very careful and ensure they and their lawyers fully comply with the rules that apply to the eviction process.”
“Even with these changes, landlords will not generally be able to take possession of their property earlier than 14 months (rent arrears claim).”
“Some landlords have mortgaged their homes to raise capital to go towards the buy to let mortgage. Which means these families run the risk of losing the home well as their buy to let investment due to a tenant rent arrears. Where a landlord cannot pay the mortgage, the lender will take steps to repossession the property.”
“We urge the Government to help landlords in England by way of a grant to stem the flow of evictions.”
“Welsh landlords have some help where tenants can apply for a loan which in turn is paid directly to a landlord or an agent.”
“Landlords in England need financial help, and this really needs to come through as soon as possible.” He said.
Source: British Landlords Association
Author: Sarah Featherstone
Date: 31st of August 2020
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