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 on Friday 28th August and took effect on Saturday, 29th August which meant that any notices served by post or Recorded Delivery on the Friday were invalid because they were not deemed served until Wednesday 2nd September.
These Regulations on the whole doubled the notice periods landlords have to give to tenants where they want them to leave. Most tenancies in the private residential sector are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (“ASTs”) and the relevant notices here are Section 21 (Form 6A) 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, the notice period to be given to tenants increased to 3 months and in August this increased again to 6 months. This will be in place until at least 31 March 2021. 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. Fortunately, the stay on court proceedings lifted on 20 September 2020 and they are now processing claims, albeit much slower than previously.
Anti-social behaviour by tenants can be dealt with sooner but it does require convictions related to the property or have been committed in the locality of the property or against the landlord or anyone associated with the landlord.
Also be aware that there are new Section 21 and Section 8 forms and notes to accompany Form 6As. If you use an old form, it could result in your possession claim being struck out.
Tenancies excluded from the Housing Act 1988 such as one to a company tenant (such as a housing association) or if the landlord lives in the same building for example, do not appear to have been affected by these changes and the notice period in the tenancy agreement is likely to stand.