Details of the new regulations coming into force on the 1st October 2021

Notices Seeking Possession: Reversion to Pre-Pandemic Notice Periods as of 1 October 2021

As many frustrated landlords and agents will be aware, in March 2020, the Government announced that the notice periods required to be provided to tenants would be extended, by implementing sch.29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

This resulted in many landlords having to provide at least 6 months’ notice to their tenants before possession proceedings could be initiated.

These provisions were due to come to an end originally in August 2020. However, various extensions were implemented, which continued the requirement to allow these lengthy notice periods, unless very specific exemptions applied.

Finally, to the relief of many landlords, as of 1 October 2021, the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies and Notices) (Amendment and Suspension) (England) Regulations 2021 (“the New Regulations” come into effect.

The New Regulations amend the original Coronavirus Act 2020. That Act lays out the well-documented increase to notice periods introduced due to COVID-19. Schedule 29 of the Act states that the “relevant period” in which the provisions of the Schedule apply ends on 30 September 2021. The New Regulations have amended the relevant period to now end on 25 March 2022.

The New Regulations have suspended Schedule 29, paragraphs 2, 3 and 5-10(1). These are the provisions that prescribe longer notice periods for possession. Suspension of these provisions suspends the need for longer notice and, hence, notice periods have now been reduced to pre-pandemic levels.

What does this mean for landlords?

Before 1 October 2021, notice periods were made much longer, with the majority of notices seeking possession requiring at least 6 months’ notice to be provided, unless certain grounds under schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 were cited, or unless there were, for example, serious rent arrears.

Notice periods are now much lesser; landlords are required to provide only 2 months’ notice to a tenant where they rely upon a non-fault based section 21 notice and, in the case of rent arrears, only 2 weeks’ notice for a notice pursuant to section 8 Housing Act 1988.

For other grounds, landlords should obtain independent legal advice to ascertain the correct level of notice required prior to serving the same.

However, it is vital to note that the New Regulations include only a suspension of the relevant legislation which increased notice periods. This means that, up until the end of the relevant period, being 25 March 2022, the government could decide to increase notice periods once more.

For now, landlords looking to serve notice on their tenants should seriously consider taking action at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that they are able to rely on the pre-pandemic notice levels, just in case the suspension is removed, and longer notice periods therefore implemented once more.

Can a landlord still rely on a notice which was served prior to 1 October 2021

In short, yes. Landlords will still have to ensure that the notice is deemed valid (by ensuring that the relevant documentation has been served on the tenant, for example) but the different notice period will not have a bearing on the notice’s validity, so long as the notice met requirements at the time of service.

The suspension of longer notice periods will also not apply to any notices served before 1 October 2021, and so landlords will either need to re-serve, or else wait for the current notice to expire before issuing proceedings on the basis of the same.

Moving Forwards

As above, landlords will still be able to rely upon notices which have been served prior to the change in notice periods, but the suspension of notice periods will not apply to any notice served before 1 October 2021, or on the wrong prescribes form.

It is vital that for any notices served on or after 1 October 2021, agents and Landlords ensure that the up-to-date prescribed forms are being used, to ensure that any notices served on or after 1 October 2021 are valid.

We would recommend, where possible, to obtain the new form on the Government website whenever issuing a fresh notice as this (usually) contains the most up-to-date version of the form.

Landlords should still be conscious that, at present, it appears that the Government and the Court are trying to encourage landlords and tenants to reach amicable solutions, and to issue possession proceedings only as a last resort.

Whilst landlords are not obligated to provide longer notice periods than those required pre-pandemic, it may be worth considering this if you believe that proceedings could be avoided if the tenant has a little more time to vacate on their own accord.

This could be much quicker than the court route, particularly given the lengthy delays which landlords are likely to face due to the backlog of actions in the court caused by the possession moratorium…

Hopefully, this will be the last of the changes in notice periods, but, as always, it will be a waiting game to see how the pandemic frames the situation moving forwards.  We will endeavour to publish a further update should there be any updates.

If you require any assistance with serving notice on your tenant, or with issuing possession proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact Sian Meredith on 01489 864 152 or email her at sian.meredith@lawcomm.co.uk or Bill Dhariwal on 01489 864 117 or email him at bill.dhariwal@lawcomm.co.uk).