The ban on evictions, introduced in response to the COVID-19 crisis, had been extended again to 20 September 2020 following an announcement on 21 August 2020 from Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP.
Along with this announcement, came further changes to notice periods, with the Government stating their intention “to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice in all bar those cases raising serious issues…until at least the end of March ”.
Originally, the eviction ban had been extended from the 25 June to 23 August 2020 for both commercial and residential tenancies in England and Wales.
The current stay on residential eviction procedures shall be lifted as of the 20 September, giving Landlords some degree of relief.
However, Landlords are not out of the water yet and careful consideration must be given to the new notice periods for any notices which are served between the 29 August 2020 and 31 March 2021. It is unknown, at this stage, whether these will be extended further.
For any Landlord who had issued proceedings before 3 August 2020 (and whose claim was subsequently affected by the stay) will be required to file and serve a Reactivation Notice. This equally applies to accelerated possession proceedings. For any landlord wishing to serve a fresh notice to take advantage of the new shorter notice periods where appropriate (some of which are listed below), the old notice will need to be withdrawn and a new notice served.
For landlords serving any fault-based notices (under s.8 of the Housing Act 1988) on or after 29 August 2020, a new 6-month minimum notice period, pertinent to Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements (“ASTs”), will apply in most cases until 31 March 2021.
There are only limited circumstances where the pre-COVID notice periods, or notice periods shorter than 6 months, will apply. This includes situations where the Government considers it “no longer proportionate to allow [landlords] to continue without resolution”. These include:
- Any anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, rioting and false statements have returned to pre-COVID notice requirements. If any anti-social behaviour is being brought under ground 14, a landlord may issue proceedings on the same day as service of the notice. Generally, notice periods vary between two weeks and four weeks.
- Any eviction under ground 14A (domestic violence) or false statements provided by the tenant (ground 17) will be 2 weeks’ notice;
- Where there is any rent due for a period in excess of 6 months then a 4 weeks’ notice period is sufficient otherwise 6 months.
Any Landlords serving a non-fault notice (under s.21 of the Housing Act 1988) on or after 29 August 2020, where a residential tenancy has expired under the terms of an AST, also have a new 6 month minimum notice period. This increases the pre-COVID notice period by 3 months.
However, in addition to this new 6 month notice period, Landlords of ASTs may be pleased to know that any Section 21 Notice served on or after 29 August 2020, will remain valid for 10 months from the date the notice was given.