It has been a rollercoaster of a fortnight on the legislation front. On 18th March, the Government advised that all evictions would be banned until further notice.
We can understand the rationale behind this, but in practice, it left the housing industry in limbo, and there was a call for the Government to clarify and amend their position.
On 26th March, then, the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into effect. This re-instated Section 21 & Section 8 Notices for Possession, but with some fundamental changes.
New Section 21 & Section 8 Rules
A Section 21 is served for a landlord to re-gain possession of the property from a tenant.
A Section 8 is served for a landlord to re-gain possession of the property from a tenant where there are clear breaches of contract.
There are a number of restrictions to serving these notices already in place: tenants must have been provided with a copy of a valid Landlords Gas Safety Certificate, their security deposit must have been protected in a Government backed scheme and the relevant Prescribed Information served, and in Wales, landlords must be registered (and potentially licensed) with Rent Smart Wales.
Under the Coronavirus Act, the following conditions have been added:
- Section 21 can be now served, but with a 90 day notice period
- All possession claims are suspended for 3 months
- This legislation is in place until 30th September 2020
Section 21 and Section 8 Notices can now be used again, however the notice period has been extended to 3 months. For Section 21 Notices, the notice period is ordinarily 2 months. For Section 8 Notices, it is usually 14 days. Landlords will not be able to progress their claims until these 3-month notices have expired.
This applies not only to new notices, but to existing claims as well – so anyone expecting their current notice to expire soon will have to wait until 30th September 2020 (at the earliest) before they can apply to the court for possession.
What is very clear from the Government is that they strongly advise landlords not to commence new notices seeking possession during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so.
The rules apply to England and Wales in the same way (though they differed before). Click here for further information.
How will this work, in practice?
Firstly, we have to take a pragmatic view on why you need possession back, and assess if the situation is urgent enough to warrant issuing a possession notice.
If the situation is deemed urgent enough, a notice for possession can be served (either a Section 21 or Section 8 – get legal advice on which one you should use in your circumstances). It will not come into effect until 3 months has passed, and if the tenant can’t or won’t leave for any reason, you will need to make an application to the courts.
Let’s not forget, though, that it took an average of 6-8 weeks from the expiry of a notice to get a court hearing date before coronavirus was declared a global pandemic. Now the courts have suspended all current notices as well as new, it is likely to take much longer as they handle a backlog.
We must also be aware that although this legislation in force until 30th September 2020, it is subject to review and may be extended with secondary legislation.
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