The Government introduced further changes to the relevant legislation on 01 June 2021 

Since the first lockdown was imposed in March 2020 there have been a number of changes to the procedures relating to possession actions in respect of residential properties. The purpose was principally to alleviate the difficulties for tenants faced with possible unemployment or furloughing. As the situation has progressed some of the measures which were introduced have now been terminated, e.g. between March and September 2020 the courts were not hearing possession actions. Other measures have either been retained or modified.

Landlords need to be aware of the current situation, particularly in respect of notice periods, and they need to be alert for changes in the future. I set out the main changes below. I have confined my comments to assured shorthold tenancies (AST’s) as they are the most common form of tenancy.

Evictions

From 31 May 2021 the moratorium on evictions ended.

Notices

The most common notices are Section 21 and Section 8 notices and I will deal with each in turn.

Section 21 Notices

From 01 June 2021 a landlord must give a minimum of 4 months’ notice and must start any action within 8 months of the date of the notice.

Landlords must use the amended Form 6A.

Before the initial lockdown the minimum notice period was 2 months. Between 26 March and 28 August 2020 the notice period was 3 months, and from 29 August 2020 to 31 May 2021 the notice period was 6 months.

Section 8 Notices

From 01 June 2021 a landlord must give a minimum notice period of 4 months if the arrears of rent are less than 4 months. From 1 August 2021 the notice period will be 2 months.

If there are more than 4 months’ arrears the minimum notice period is 4 weeks.

Before the initial lockdown the notice period used to be a minimum of 2 weeks, which was increased to 3 months between 26 March and 28 August 2020; from 29 August 2020 to 31 May 2021 the notice period was a minimum of 6 months if the arrears of rent were less than 6 months’ arrears; a minimum of 4 weeks if the arrears were more than 6 months.

The Landlord can rely on ground 8 if there are at least 2 months’ arrears.

If the Landlord is relying on other mandatory grounds the minimum notice periods differ. For example, under ground 7a (Serious Anti-Social Behaviour) the notice period is 4 weeks (periodic tenancy) or 1 month (fixed term tenancy).

Court Actions

The effect of the pandemic and, in particular, the suspension of possession proceedings between 26 March and 20 September 2020 has created a substantial backlog of cases. While there is no doubt that the current situation is very frustrating for Landlords, they should always be aware that an illegal eviction of a tenant, i.e. without obtaining a possession order or a warrant for possession, is a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

If you wish to discuss this or any other matter related to property litigation please contact Simon Wood on 01435 502011.

Simon Wood

[1] the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

Property Litigation services