Notice periods for seeking possession of most residential tenancies in England increased to six months

4th Sep 2020

Following on from our recent update in relation to the extension of the stay on possession proceedings to 20th September 2020, the Coronavirus Act 2020 has, as anticipated, now been amended so as to extend the amount of notice of possession proceedings to be given to residential tenants in most cases.

Conveyancing solicitor

Background

When the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the 2020 Act”) came into force on 26 March 2020, notice periods in relation to possession proceedings for certain residential tenancies were extended, in most cases to three months. This amendment applied to any notices being served during the “Relevant Period”, which began on 26 March 2020 and was due to end on 30 September 2020.

The 2020 Act also contained provision for the Secretary of State (or, in the case of Wales, the Welsh Ministers) to extend the Relevant Period and to alter the three month notice period by way of further regulations.

The provisions of the 2020 Act relating to residential tenancies are contained in Schedule 29.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, indicated that the notice periods were going to be extended in relation to England (having already been extended in relation to Wales) when he announced the recent extension to the stay in proceedings.

The New Regulations

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/914) (“the Regulations”) came into force on 29th August 2020.

The Regulations apply in England only and make amendments to the 2020 Act. In particular, they:

  • Extend the end of the Relevant Period until 31 March 2021 (regulation 1).
  • Disapply certain parts of Schedule 29 to the 2020 Act so that where a landlord relies on particular grounds involving anti-social behaviour, the notice requirements have reverted to those in force before the 2020 Act was enacted (regulation 2).
  • Increase the required notice periods for most residential possession notices, from three to six months, subject to several important exceptions (regulation 3).

Where the tenancy is a Rent Act 1977-protected or statutory tenancy, a secure, assured or assured shorthold tenancy (AST), the exceptions mean that the following notice periods apply:

  • Four weeks, where at least six months’ rent is unpaid at the time the notice is served.
  • Three months, where the grounds for eviction relate to the tenant’s immigration status or the tenancy is an assured tenancy or AST and possession is sought following the death of the former tenant.
  • The notice period that applied before Schedule 29 to the 2020 Act came into force, where the grounds for eviction relate to anti-social behaviour, domestic violence or acquiring the tenancy as a result of a fraud.

For introductory and demoted tenancies, the exceptions set out a required notice period of four weeks in a case where the landlord seeks possession for reasons related to anti-social behaviour or domestic violence.

Amendments have been made to the prescribed form of notice under section 8 and section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (“HA 1988”) and, for secure tenancies, to the notice of intention to seek possession. It is therefore important to ensure that you use the correct form of notice as failure to do so could result in the notice being deemed invalid.

For notices seeking possession under section 21 of the HA 1988, the period in which possession proceedings must be commenced under section 21(4D) has been extended from six to ten months from the date on which the notice was given.

Landlords who have already served a notice on their tenants before the Regulations came into force on 29th August 2020 will be relieved to hear that the amendments to the 2020 Act are not retrospective and so do not apply in relation to notices served before that date.

If you are a landlord or a tenant and would like further advice in relation to your legal rights please contact Elizabeth Gibson on 01603 675641 or at eg@rogers-norton.co.uk.