With the current stay on residential possession proceedings due to be lifted on 20 September 2020, new extended minimum notice periods for notices requiring possession of residential premises let on an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) now apply in most circumstances, in an attempt to further protect residential tenants from eviction.
Landlords seeking to recover possession of their properties between 29 August 2020 and 31 March 2021 should be mindful of these changes to the notice periods.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (the Regulations) came into force for England on 29 August 2020 and will remain in force until 31 March 2021.
During this period, any fault-based notice served pursuant to s.8 of the Housing Act 1988 (i.e. a notice which seeks to recover possession of a residential premises let on an AST pursuant to certain grounds as set out in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988, such as non-payment of rent) must now give six months' notice in most cases in order to be valid.
Importantly, the Regulations provide for exceptions where the following shorter notice periods will apply before possession proceedings can be issued at court:
- Immediately after service of the notice under ground 14 (nuisance, annoyance, immoral or illegal tenant);
- Two weeks' notice under grounds 14A (domestic violence between tenants of a registered social or charitable housing landlord), 14ZA (conviction riots) and 17 (tenancy granted as a result of false statements);
- Four weeks' notice where there are at least six months' rent unpaid and grounds 8 (rent arrears), 10 (some rent due) or 11 (persistent delays in rent payment) apply;
- Four weeks' notice under ground 7A (convictions and anti-social behaviour); and
- Three months' notice under grounds 7B (immigration status) and 7 (tenant death).
While largely the same, the Welsh Regulations do differ slightly. The notice periods under ground 7A (convictions and anti-social behaviour) and ground 14 (nuisance, annoyance, immoral or illegal tenant) will instead be three months.
The Regulations also extended the notice period for non-fault-based notices served pursuant to s.21 of the Housing Act 1988 (i.e. a notice requiring possession of a premises upon expiry of the fixed term granted by an AST) to six months (i.e. an increase of three months).
The limitation period for bringing possession proceedings pursuant to s.21 is extended to 10 months from the date the notice was given.
The Regulations are temporary, with the pre-COVID notice periods due to apply from 1 April 2021. However, with constant lobbying on the government to bring in more protection for residential tenants, it would not be surprising to see similar measures brought in on a long-term basis.