The Coronavirus Act 2020 has been amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment)(England) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”). The Regulations, introduced by the Government on 29 August 2020, add further restrictions to the termination of residential tenancies in England.
Section 21 Notices for Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)
To issue a section 21 Notice under the Housing Act 1988 (also known as a Notice of Possession), a Landlord must give 6 months’ notice to terminate an AST for any notices served on or after 29 August 2020. ASTs are used typically for short term lets, such as 6 months, but can be for longer fixed terms or periodic, rolling on a weekly or monthly basis. The prescribed form Section 21 Notice has been amended to reflect the changes, so it is crucial that landlords and agents use the correct version when serving it on tenants.
These changes will be imposed until at least 31 March 2021. Should possession proceedings be necessary, these must be issued within 10 months of the date of service of the Section 21 Notice. Please note, this is subject to the current stay on possession proceedings which is in force until 20 September 2020.
Section 8 Notices for ASTs and Assured Tenancies (AT)
When serving a Section 8 Notice (also known as a Notice to Quit), a landlord may serve a notice on a tenant of an AT or an AST where the tenant has breached their contract and therefore the landlord has grounds for possession. The ground most often used is the tenant falling into rent arrears, but of course there are other ways the contract can be breached.
For the majority of the statutory grounds for possession, the Regulations have been uniformed and extended the notice period to 6 months. For other grounds under a Section 8 Notice, the notices periods are as follows:
- For grounds 8 10 and/or 11 (rent arrears), where there is more than 6 months’ rent outstanding, at least 4 weeks’ notice must be given.
- For grounds 7 (death of tenant) or 7B (no right to rent), at least 3 months’ notice must be given.
- For grounds 14A (domestic violence and social landlord), 14ZA (riot conviction) or 17 (false statement by the tenant) at least 2 weeks’ notice must be given.
- For ground 7A (conviction, breach of injunction or closure order), one months’ notice must be given; and
- For ground 14 (nuisance, annoyance, immoral or illegal user) possession proceedings should not be started earlier than the date of service of the Section 8 Notice.
The prescribed form for Section 8 Notices has also been changed and landlords and agents should check it is in the correct format before serving it on the tenant.
Notices issued before 29 August 2020
Before the Regulations were introduced, the original notice period of 2 calendar months was increased to 3 months under the Coronavirus Act 2020. Landlords who have already served notices under the Act in this way will therefore be relieved to know that the new restrictions will not affect them provided that the notices were received by a tenant on or before 28 August 2020. The Regulations will therefore apply to all notices served from 29 August 2020 and the correct notice must be given to avoid the validity of the notice being challenged.
The stay on procession proceedings expired on 21 September 2020. This means landlords can issue proceedings and existing proceedings will resume in accordance with Practice Direction 55C of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998. The wording in Practice Direction 55C has also been updated considering the changes.
Written by Nishtha Misra – Solicitor at KaurMaxwell