Residential Landlord & Tenant Update: New Regulations!
The Coronavirus Act 2020 has made significant changes to the residential landlord and tenant law – are you up to date?
How Do The New Regulations Affect Landlords?
As a result of Covid-19, there have been significant changes in landlord and tenant law. These changes will likely have a detrimental effect on landlords seeking to recover vacant possession of their property.
A landlord wishing to recover vacant possession of their property will need to do so by serving either a Section 8 notice or a Section 21 notice.
A section 8 notice can be served if a tenant is in breach of any of the grounds set out in section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. After the relevant notice period has expired, if the tenant has not vacated, the landlord can commence possession proceedings. On the other hand, a section 21 notice can provide a ‘no-fault eviction’, provided the correct notice has been given and certain formalities have been met.
The ‘Old’ Law
Before the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020, a landlord seeking to terminate a tenancy via the section 8 route would serve notice either just before or up to 2 months (depending on the breach) before commencing court proceedings. If the breach is in relation to rent arrears, there must have been at least 2 months’ rent arrears at the time of serving the notice and the time of the hearing. The notice period for breach by rent arrears was 14 days.
With regard to a section 21 notice, provided the notice had been validly served, the tenant would have 2 months to vacate the property. A landlord is not able to recover outstanding rent arrears via the section 21 procedure. If there are outstanding arrears, a landlord should either use the section 8 procedure (if applicable), or they would need to issue a separate claim in the county court.
The ‘New’ Law
The Coronavirus Act 2020 has brought significant changes with regard to how a landlord can recover their property, with particular regard to the relevant notice periods and how long notices remain valid.
Now, a landlord who serves a section 8 notice relying on any of the relevant grounds (except outstanding rent arrears of more than 6 months) will be required to give the tenant 6 months’ notice. If there are more than 6 months of outstanding rent arrears, the notice period is 4 weeks. Again, there must be at least 6 months of outstanding rent arrears at the time of serving the notice and at the time of the hearing. There are some exceptions to new rules (e.g. cases of anti-social behaviour) where the relevant notices periods have returned the pre-Coronavirus Act 2020 periods.
For section 21 notices, the relevant notice period is 6 months from the service of the notice. There have been no changes in the formalities required for a valid section 21 notice. The landlord must still provide the tenant with a Gas Safety Certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate and the Government booklet called ‘How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England’. As before, a Landlord cannot recover outstanding rent arrears using the section 21 route.
Whilst tenants are still obliged to pay rent as usual during the pandemic, the options available to landlords whose tenants default have become more limited. The prospect of having to wait until there are at least 6 months’ rent arrears is no doubt frustrating for landlords who may be reliant on these rental payments as part of their income. Establishing a good line of communication between landlord and tenant should help to ensure that any issues can be picked up quickly and constructive attempts made to find a solution to the benefit of all parties. It is important to obtain legal advice to prepare or at least check notices before they are served so that landlords do not encounter further delays if the notice is subsequently found to be invalid.
How we can help
If you are a landlord and require advice about a tenant, please get in contact with our specialist solicitor Annabel Mayer on 01284 727118 / Annabel.Mayer@ashtonslegal.co.uk, who would be happy to take some initial information from you.
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