Covid-19 - Changes to evictions
You would be forgiven for being confused with all the changes that are happening in relation to landlord and tenant law and in particular evictions. Legislation is being introduced on Friday afternoons with them taking effect as soon as the next day.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 were introduced last Friday afternoon and took effect on Saturday, 29th August which meant that any notices served by post or Recorded Delivery on Friday were invalid because they were not deemed served until Wednesday 2nd September. If they were hand delivered before 4.30 pm on Friday 28th, they are likely to be valid (unless the contract says otherwise).
These Regulations on the whole doubled the notice periods landlords have to give to tenants when they want them to leave. Most tenancies in the private rented sector are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (“ASTs”) and the relevant notices here are Section 21 and Section 8.
In pre-Covid times, a landlord could give a tenant 2 months’ notice under Section 21 (of the Housing Act 1988) that they wished to take back their property. No grounds were necessary but the notice had to expire on or after the fixed term and the landlord had to have satisfied the numerous obligations required of them for it to be valid.
However, in March 2020, the notice period to be given to tenants increased to 3 months and last Saturday this increased again to 6 months. Regardless of what the contract says, a landlord can now not evict a tenant under Section 21 without first giving them at least 6 months’ notice. If the tenant does not leave on expiry of the notice, a claim must be brought within 10 months of issuing the notice or its validity will end and you will have to start again with a new notice.
Section 8 notices have also been affected. These are ground-based notices seeking possession. If there are less than 6 months of rent arrears you must give at least 6 months’ notice to the tenant. However, the slightly better news is that if there are more than 6 months of rent arrears, a landlord only has to give 4 weeks’ notice before starting a claim in the court. Having said that, there is currently a stay on court proceedings and this is due to be lifted on 20 September 2020. However, the stay has been extended on a couple of occasions already and it may be that this will also be extended so that the courts will not deal with possession claims until much later.
Anti-social behaviour by tenants can be dealt with sooner but it does require convictions and be related to the property or have been committed in the locality of the property or to the landlord or anyone associated with the landlord.
Tenancies excluded from the Housing Act 1988 such as one to a company tenant (e.g. a housing association) or if the landlord lives in the same building, do not appear to have been affected by these changes and the notice period in the tenancy agreement is likely to stand.