The UK currently has four different processes in place for a landlord to regain possession of their property.
On 21st August (2020), the UK Government announced that England would follow Wales in extending notice periods, so from that date on, English landlords would need to give their tenants 6 months’ notice should they wish to evict.
In a statement for the Guild of Property Professionals, Compliance Officer Paul Offley noted that not only where there now different processes in place for serving Section 21 notices across England, Wales, Scotland, and North Ireland, but also that the notice periods vary from 3 to 6 months, and the dates for them to be reviewed from 30th September 2020 to 30th March 2021.
In the same announcement, the Government also changed the date housing-related court cases could be heard from 23rd August to 20th September (2020). This applies to both England and Wales.
It’s no wonder we’re all getting so confused!
Notice Periods in Wales
On 24th July, the Welsh Government announced that landlords serving a Section 21 between then and 30th September (2020) had to give their tenants 6 months’ notice.
Now this date is looming, landlords aren’t sure what to expect; will notice periods be reduced, or will we be blindsided, overnight, with a further extension we’ve no time to plan for?
The plan to extend eviction notice periods to 6 months was announced in July overnight, with no warning – totally ignoring the 21-days’ notice we are ordinarily given of changes like this.
The Welsh Government gained the power to make these swift changes in the Coronavirus Act 2020. Welsh Ministers may choose to continue with these extended periods beyond 30th September. With mixed messages from Westminster, and with Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland choosing to implement different strategies from England, it’s difficult to pre-empt and plan.
And once legislation is changed literally overnight once, it’s difficult to trust it won’t just happen again.
Notice Period Extensions
If you have served a Section 21 or Section 8 Notice to your tenants prior to 24th July (2020), the notice period will be 3 months.
If you serve a Section 21 or Section 8 Notice to your tenants after 24th July (2020), the notice period will be 6 months. You will then not be able to apply to court until January 2021 at the earliest if your tenant doesn’t leave, except in very exceptional cases where anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse is involved.
If you are a Landlord in Wales, don’t struggle with this alone. If you’re concerned about fast-paced legislation changes, or if you’re looking for additional support in managing your tenancy, get in touch today.
Support for Tenants in Rent Arrears
In August, the Welsh Government launched a scheme, Tenancy Saver Loans, to allow tenants to borrow to pay off arrears built up due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s administered by the Welsh Council for Voluntary Action, and delivered by credit unions.
Tenants have to apply for the loan in the first instance, but the payment is made directly to the landlord or agent. The tenant then has up to 5 years to pay it back at an interest rate of 1% APR. The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) say there’s no cap on the amount a tenant can borrow, and payments can be backdated to 1st March (2020).
At the end of August, it was announced that agents and landlords in Wales can now direct tenants who are struggling with rent to a new, independent advice service. It’s called the Private Rented Sector Helpline, and is funded by the Welsh Government, and run by Citizens Advice Cymru. It’s free to use.
Landlords are still being strongly encouraged to negotiate rent repayment plans with their tenants before resorting to evictions, but there is little to no guidance available from the Welsh Government (or the UK Government) as to how they should do this. This is especially frustrating as landlords will now be expected to demonstrate a thorough understanding of their tenants’ financial position in court should an eviction claim get that far.
It also totally ignores that rent arrears are not the only reason a landlord might need to regain possession of their property.
What Landlords Need to Do
The emphasis has to continue to be on managing our tenancies effectively, and keeping communication lines with our tenants open. Landlords and agents also need to have a robust plan in place for handling, tracking, and negotiating on rent arrears – and they need to have it to hand before it becomes a problem.
You need to be able to have frank, empathetic conversations about finances. If communications do then break down, you will need evidence of any attempted agreements if the case goes to court.
Now would also be a good time, stressful though it may seem, to check through your tenancy file and check that everything is up to date, and that you’re fully legally compliant.