By Aron Heywood
On 25 March 2020, the Coronavirus Act 2020 received royal assent and was passed into law. The Act alters the notice periods where Landlords are seeking possession of residential property under either Section 8 or Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
The new Act takes effect by temporarily amending Sections 8 and 21, so that the notice period, in relation to both, is now three months.
Prior to the new Act, where a Tenant was more than two months’ in arrears of rent, a Landlord could serve a Section 8 Notice giving the Tenant two weeks to pay the arrears, failing which possession proceedings could be issued.
Under the new Act, in relation to Section 8, the date stated in the Notice (as being the earliest date when possession proceedings can be commenced) must now, for all grounds under the Housing Act, must be three months.
In relation to Section 21 Notices (which give a Tenant notice to end the tenancy regardless of any breach), prior to the Act the notice period was two months. This has now also increased to three months.
Landlords should be aware that the new notice period of three months may be increased by statutory instrument, albeit up to a maximum period of six months.
The changes to the Notice periods only affect Notices served during the period 26 March 2020 to 30 September 2020 (the key date being the date of deemed service), however, again this period may be extended.
Whilst the new Act does not affect Notices served prior to 26 March 2020, the Courts have currently adjourned indefinitely all possession hearings including those relating to Notices served prior to that date. Adjourned cases will apparently be relisted as a priority once the restrictions relating to Covid 19 are lifted.
The new Act also makes amendments to the relevant forms that need to be served. The forms are altered to reflect the changes made by the Act and Landlords must now ensure that any Section 8 or Section 21 Notices are prepared on the updated forms, failing which the Notices are deemed invalid – this would significantly delay the time for obtaining a possession order.
All of these changes are going to lead to significant delays for Landlords who wish to recover possession of their properties, even if a Notice had been served prior to the key date of 26 March 2020.
Our Commercial Litigation team have extensive experience in advising Landlords on residential property matters and can provide commercial and up-to-date advice as to how to deal with these matters considering this ever-changing landscape. Do not hesitate to get in contact with Andrew Haffner, Roger Rubin, David Bondt or Aron Heywood if you need any help.