Evicting Tenants – Possession Proceedings – Where are we now?
Enoch Evans LLP have recently seen an influx of enquiries from landlords and tenants regarding the current rules surrounding evictions from rented (residential) property.
As part of its evolving response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Government had sought to protect vulnerable tenants from being evicted during what has been an unprecedented and tumultuous time.
During the pandemic, the basic notice period for seeking possession of residential tenancies in England and Wales was increased to six months. Evictions were effectively banned because since March 2020, it has not been possible to enforce possession orders.
As part of the government's "roadmap to recovery", the notices periods are now gradually being reduced, and the eviction ban has been lifted.
From 01 June 2021, a landlord who serves a Section 21 notice (the notice required for a "no fault" eviction) upon a tenant who is occupying a property under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), will need to give a tenant 4 months' notice to vacate the property.
Prior to 01 June 2021, and since March 2020, this notice period had been extended to 6 months.
At the time of writing, it is intended that on 01 August 2021 the notice period will be further reduced back to the pre-covid notice period of 2 months.
The notice periods for Section 8 notices have also been reduced as of 01 June 2021.
It is most common that a landlord will want to rely on one of the "rent grounds" (grounds 8,10,11), in cases of unpaid rent. Currently if a tenant is in less than 4 months' arrears with their rent, then 4 months' notice will need to be given (non-serious rent arrears). Where the Tenant is in more than 4 months' arrears, then 4 weeks' notice must be given (serious rent arrears).
Similar to the Section 21 Notice, it is intended that the 4 months' notice will be reduced to 2 months from 01 August 2021 onwards. The phased reduction of the notice period, particularly regarding non- serious rent arrears, is intended to mitigate the risk of creating a spike in possession claims (and the associated pressure on public services).
The notice periods for the other commonly used, but 'discretionary' grounds for possession, such as breach of tenancy agreement (ground 12), damage to property (13) or damage to furniture (15), has also been reduced from 6 to 4 months.
The current rules maintain the existing exceptions for grounds of eviction relating to anti-social behaviour, domestic violence or acquiring the tenancy as a result of a false statement - this notice period remains at 4 weeks.
From 01 June 2021, Landlords may now enforce possession orders to recover possession of their properties. This will come as a welcome relief to landlords, many who have been left in an impossible situation for over a year by being unable to gain possession of their property and incurring ongoing monetary losses as a result.
The government is still encouraging landlords and tenants to work together, and bailiffs have been asked not to carry out residential evictions (even after the recent restrictions are lifted) if anyone living within the property has Covid symptoms or is self-isolating.
There is a long road ahead before the legislation related to residential possessions returns to the pre-covid normality. With the government steaming ahead with its radical changes to possession proceedings, including banning "no fault" evictions, this area will remain tricky to navigate for quite some time.
If you require legal advice regarding Landlord and Tenant matters, please contact Selica Khan or another member of our team at Enoch Evans LLP, who will be happy to discuss your matter with you. The contact numbers to use are 01922 720333 (Walsall Office) or 0121 355 2336 (Sutton Coldfield Office).