Tuesday, 1 June 2021

HOME REPOSSESSIONS: LATEST: TRAPS FOR LANDLORDS, DEFENCES FOR TENANTS: England & Wales

The general coronavirus ban on residential evictions is over. But modifications to the procedure landlords must follow before they can have any hope of the county court making a possession order are still with us - and have changed again.

Firstly, the notice period. There are two kinds of notice which come into play: the fault-notice (arrears of rent, anti-social behaviour and the rest) under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 and the no-fault notice under section 21 of the 1988 Act. 

In England, in respect of the section 8 notice, at least three months was required during 26 March to 28 August 2020 inc. This was doubled to a stonking six months  during 29 August 2020 to 31 May 2021 inc with variations where rent arrears, anti-social behaviour, rioting and obtaining the tenancy through a false statement were relied on. The six months has now been reduced to four months as from 01 June until 30 September 2021 but different periods will apply in rent arrears cases: at least four weeks for four months' arrears and four months for less than four months' arrears, tapering down from 01 August to 30 September 2021 inc to two months' notice for less than four months' arrears. The notice period on the ground of the tenant being unlawfully present in the UK or in the event of the tenant's death has reduced to two months from 01 June 2021. Notice periods for social introductory and demoted tenancies are amended as from 01 June 2021 and tapered as from 01 August 2021. 

The section 21 notice period in England of the minimum of three and six months as above have applied but as from 01 June to 30 September 2021 inc the six months has been reduced to four months,

Secondly, the form of notice in England. Under section 8, it's form 3 and under section 21 it's form 6A. The forms have been revised alongside changes in notice periods and form 3 was revised on account of the introduction of the debt respite moratoria as from 04 May 2021. Both forms have again been reamended as from 01 June 2021.

In Wales, the current general minimum six months' notice requirement is running until at least 30 June 2021.

So notice has been given but when given it was for less than the minimum period which applied at that time? Then the notice is not worth the paper it was written on. Any county court claim based on the insufficient notice should fail and the landlord should serve a fresh compliant notice and commence new proceedings on the strength of it. And say the notice was not in the correct prescribed form which was current when it was served? There may be a defence for the tenant because of this. It would depend on the ways in which the notice was incorrect and the particular circumstances of the case. Professional advice should be taken on this by the tenant.

Just one other thing. The life of a section 21 notice is limited. If a possession claim has not been started before the notice expires then a fresh notice has to be served. Before coronavirus, the notice had a life of six months. For the period 29 August 2020 to 31 May 2021 it was increased to ten months. It has now been extended to eight months from 01 June to 30 September 2021 inc.