What are the changes in notice periods for seeking possession for residential tenancies?

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Several provisions were put in place in order to deal with and address the economic issues caused by COVID-19. As a measure to protect residential tenants, the government had put in place measures to extend notice periods for when a landlord is seeking possession of the residential property. This is due to return to the pre-pandemic notice period time, meaning the extension in place will end on 30th September 2021, and the pre-pandemic notice period will return on 1st October 2021. 

A section 8 notice is what a residential landlord would give to a tenant in order to indicate that they wish the tenant to vacate the premises because the tenant has breached the terms of the tenancy. It will contain the reason why as well as by when they are to leave the property. Prior to the amendments in light of COVID-19, the length of a notice period would vary on the grounds. Depending on the grounds the notice period could be 2 weeks, 4 weeks, or up to 2 months before the tenant is asked to vacate or legal proceedings will commence. The requirements for a section 8 notice, the grounds for eviction, and the length of a notice period can be found in detail in the Housing Act 1988.

So what is the current extension of the notice period?

Under The Coronavirus Act 2020 (CVA), landlords and tenants of residential properties had new legislation applicable to them which affected their residential leases (assured or assured shorthold tenancies). In summary, the CVA was put in place to limit a landlord’s ability to recover possession of a property from a tenant. These measures originally came into effect 26th March 2020 and are due to expire on 30th September 2021, without any further extension. 

An additional amendment to the CVA known as The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/564) (English Regulations No 3) was put in place on 1st June 2021 in order to further amend the notice period given. Ordinarily, a landlord when seeking possession of the property would deliver a section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988 to a tenant stating the notice period before a tenant would have to vacate the premises (as well as the grounds for eviction). However, this notice period had been extended. Prior to 1 June 2021, it was extended to six months, however it is currently at least four months unless an exception applies. 

What are the current exceptions to the current extension of the notice period?

As previously stated, the current notice period is four months. However, this can be shortened in certain circumstances known as exceptions. These exceptions take effect when the grounds of eviction relate to domestic violence, significant rent arrears, anti-social behaviours or acquiring the tenancy as a result of a false statement. Under these exceptions, the landlord can modify the length of the notice period. 

For example, where the grounds for eviction relate to domestic violence, anti-social behaviour or acquiring the tenancy through false statement, the notice period is the same as it was pre-pandemic. Depending on the amount of months of rent a tenant is behind on, will also affect the length of the notice period. If a tenant was behind on rent by four months, then the landlord is entitled to give the tenant four weeks of notice. This is where the landlord has relied on one or more of the grounds in the Housing Act such as grounds 8 (substantial arrears of rent), 10 (some rent due) or 11 (persistent delay in paying rent). 

If the rent was less than four months behind though, even if the landlord was relying on any of the above grounds, the notice period will be two months instead of four weeks. 

These are a few examples of the exceptions to the current notice period, however, others can apply under the new amendments. Regardless of the grounds, the notice period will now be reverting to the pre-pandemic length of time of up to 2 months

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