August has been a pretty active month in the world of possession proceedings given the quiet period since the stay on possession proceedings and ban on evictions was announced by the Government in March 2020.
The August Bank Holiday weekend saw the Government release updates on how possession proceedings will work moving forward after they announced a further stay on proceedings until 20 September which is covered in our article The Government’s U-turn on lifting the stay on possession proceedings.
The changes moving forward relate to notices served and the notice period that must be given in that notice.
Our previous update Light at the end of the tunnel covered that any notice that is served before 30 September 2020 needed to give three months’ notice. However, on 29 August 2020 following the Government guidance the position changed in two ways;
- the end date of 30 September 2020 has now been extended until 31 March 2021, and;
- notices issued after 29 August 2020 must now give a six month notice period
However, there are some exceptions to point ii;
Notices regarding anti-social behaviour
If a notice is served as a result of anti-social behaviour (including rioting), domestic abuse and fraud the normal notice period prior to the Coronavirus Act 2020 will apply. The same applies to those tenants who are subject to Introductory or a Demoted Tenancy.
Notices served due to rent arrears
If a notice is served solely as a result of rent arrears the following will now apply;
- if rent arrears amount to at least six months of arrears the normal four week notice period applies
- if the rent arrears are less than six months’ rent, then you will have to give six months’ notice
Notices served as a result of breach of tenancy agreement terms and conditions other than anti-social behaviour
If a notice is served as a result of breach of tenancy agreement terms and conditions, six months’ notice will need to be provided.
Section 21 notices
A six month notice period is required when serving a section 21 notice. In light of this change a notice served after 29 August is now valid for 10 months from the date it is served or four months from the date specified in the notice which after possession is required. This means that you still have the usual four month period to act upon the notice once served to issue proceedings.
If landlords served any notices prior to 29 August given the three months’ notice period, landlords can revoke those notice and serve a new notice with the shorter notice periods if they relate to anti-social behaviour of more than six months’ rent arrears.
The Government has further stated that even at the expiry of the notice “we strongly advise landlords not to commence or continue eviction proceedings during this challenging time and without a very good reason”.
Referring back to our earlier article, to overcome such challenges, it is key for landlords to be able to demonstrate to the court that they have tried all other routes to either deal with either the anti-social behaviour or the rent arrears and commencing possession proceedings is the only option left.
There has also been a further announcement that evictions will not be enforced in local lockdown areas unless in exceptional cases and there will also be a “winter truce” on enforcement with no evictions permitted in the run up to and over Christmas, again exceptional circumstances will apply. The exceptional circumstances are those which involve anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.
With all the changes taking place, it is important to ensure that landlords are kept up to date with issuing the correct notices and ensuring the correct prescribed forms are also being used.
For further information contact Habib Khan in our housing management team who can guide, help and support you and your teams to deal with any housing management and litigation issues you face during these evolving times.
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