Residential Landlords and Possession Proceedings – Where do you stand? (February 2021)
Since the outbreak of COVID19 and the first national lockdown there has been an understandable and laudable concern by the government and tenant support groups to protect residential tenants impacted financially by the pandemic.
However, this has of course had a knock on effect for residential landlords who would in the normal course of events wish to end residential tenancies.
The changes in the law have been significant, requiring landlords, agents and their legal advisers to keep a sharp eye on notice periods, court proceedings deadlines and requirements for what can and cannot be done at any one time.
At the present moment (at least until 31 March 2021, which could be extended by subsequent government order) the notice period for a Housing Act 1988 Section 21 notice is 6 months. The notice period for a Section 8 notice is (also currently until 31 March 2021) between four weeks and six months, depending on the circumstances (though six months will apply to the most common circumstances). There is also a new requirement for the Landlord to state any effect that they are aware of that COVID19 has had on their tenants. The stay on possession proceedings was lifted in 2020 so it is possible to make the claim for possession to the courts now, and stayed cases have needed to be reactivated.
However, if you get to the point that you have served a S21 notice on the tenant, the notice period has expired, you have applied for possession because your tenants have not moved out, and got yourself a possession order, there is still an obstacle to successfully obtaining vacant possession of your property. As we find ourselves in another national lockdown, the government has extended the ban on enforcement of possession orders by enforcement officers, except in the most extreme of circumstances. These involve such issues as illegal occupation, domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour amongst a few others, as well as an exception for rent arrears of six months or more as at March 2020. This ban on eviction is at present due to be in place until 21 February 2021, but this of course may be further extended as the ongoing pandemic progresses.
If you are a residential landlord and would like help or advice as to how to proceed in the circumstances set out above, our litigation team is here to assist and advise according to your circumstances and the latest government guidance and legislation.