Further changes to eviction notice periods - what landlords need to know

This information is current and updated to the best of our knowledge as of Monday 27 September 2021.

 

Latest updates and advice

The period of notice landlords must serve to tenants in England reverts to pre-pandemic timescales – two months for Section 21 and two weeks for Section 8 – from 1 October 2021. This follows the Government’s decision to “taper off” restrictions on evictions, which were put in place following the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020, from 1 June 2021.

Emergency measures designed to protect tenants included extended notice periods and the stay on evictions. The minimum notice periods were extended to three months for notices served between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020, six months for notices served between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021 and four months for notices served between 1 June 2021 and 30 September 2021.

The definition of ‘serious rent arrears’ – which enables access to a four week notice period under Section 8 grounds 8, 10 and 11 – was also reduced from a minimum of six months’ incurred pre-COVID to any four months’ rent from 1 June 2021 as part of the “tapering off” of measures. From 1 August, the notice period for ‘non-serious’ arrears – i.e. less than four months’ arrears – was reduced to two months’ notice.

In Wales, COVID restrictions on giving notice of eviction are to be extended for another three months until the end of the year, meaning that landlords in Wales must continue to give six months’ notice to evict.

The Government intends to retain the power to implement similar measures in England in the future should the public health situation deteriorate, and legislation has been tabled that retains the ability for the Government to reapply longer notice periods until 25 March 2022 as a backstop.

Although all extended notice periods will revert to pre-COVID levels, for both Section 8 and Section 21, from 1 October, eviction and housing law specialists, Landlord Action, warn that review hearings at county courts are still causing long delays to the eviction process.

Landlord Action Founder Paul Shamplina admits to worrying about the backlog of court cases still lingering since September last year. In fact, he believes that cases will continue to ramp up, and predicts there could be as many as 150,000 possession claims made between now and the end of 2022.

Landlord Action has seen a 43 per cent rise in instructions from landlords and letting agents between 1 June 2021, when the eviction ban ended, and 1 September 2021, versus the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. The company has also seen a 17 per cent rise in enquiries to their landlord advice line during this time, receiving nearly 2,000 calls in just three months.

 “Many landlords who speak to us express their concerns over non-payment of rent and the continual changing of the process, which is now costing them more than they bargained for.

The change back to pre-pandemic notice periods cannot come soon enough for some landlords but we are having to warn landlords about delays in gaining possession due to the requirement for review hearings and backlog of cases.”

 – Paul Shamplina, Landlord Action Founder and Hamilton Fraser Chief Commercial Officer

Get a landlord insurance quote

Get a quote online in under 4 minutes

Temporary court changes to remain aware of 

Temporary changes to procedures still stand, with amended dates for applications and notices. These include:

  • In all claims claimants must provide any relevant information about the defendant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and their dependants. This is primarily so the court can consider defendants’ vulnerability, disability, and social security position, and those who are “shielding”
  • Claimants will need to produce the full arrears history of the defendant in advance, rather than at the hearing (as far as practicable)
  • The court will be able to fix a date either on or after issue, so that hearings are appropriately spread out
  • The court can suspend the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing (which would usually be no more than eight weeks) to spread out hearings appropriately and ensure that the court has capacity. 

Get a landlord insurance quote

Get a quote online in under 4 minutes

Review hearing bundles

It’s also important to note that the majority of cases will continue to be listed for a ‘review hearing’ by the court.

This stage was introduced to alleviate the current backlog of cases and assist the courts in prioritising the most urgent cases.

A Judge will look at a bundle filed and decide whether the matter should proceed afterwards to a ‘substantive hearing’ at which point a possession order could then be granted to the landlord.

When this stage was introduced, it was anticipated that in some cases a settlement might be reached at review hearing stage, which would prevent the case having to go to court.

However, Landlord Action says of approximately 400 review hearings, they are only aware of one case where a Judge contacted the parties and arranged a possession order by consent.

Since preparing a review hearing bundle can be a complicated and time consuming job, Landlord Action has put together a specialist team to help landlords with this process – get in touch to find out more.

“We are dealing with a possession case involving £14,000 which was issued to Wandsworth County Court in May 2021 and the review hearing is only scheduled for October 2021, five months later.  We expect it to progress to a substantive hearing which most likely will now not be until next year.  These delays will just continue to add to the debt owed by the tenant.”

– Paul Sowerbutts, Head of Legal for Landlord Action

Judges may also direct that the case be referred to government backed mediation at this point prior to a substantive hearing as there is a free pilot mediation service being offered. The success of this pilot is not yet clear, but attempting mediation at this late stage is unlikely to produce successful results as a landlord will already have waited a long time to obtain a possession order.

 

Get a landlord insurance quote

Get a quote online in under 4 minutes

Looking forward

While the rental sector is now closer to normal, communication, understanding and transparency are absolutely key, as they have been throughout the COVID crisis. Discussion and managing expectations are still vital, and a large part of that can be managed through mediation.

Landlord Action has partnered with the Property Redress Scheme to help landlords regain possession of their properties. Landlords who use Landlord Action to serve notice on their tenants and start the process of eviction, can choose to simultaneously use the Property Redress Scheme’s tenancy mediation service to come to a resolution outside of court.

Paul Shamplina is backing the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) in their call for the Government to bring in a tenant saver loan scheme similar to schemes in place in Scotland and Wales.

This will mean that when tenants have been affected financially by COVID-19, the Government will loan the tenant the monies for rent arrears and pay it directly to the landlord. This way, everyone is happy as the tenant can’t be evicted by the landlord and still gets paid and that tenancy is sustained.

 – Paul Shamplina, Landlord Action Founder and Hamilton Fraser Chief Commercial Officer

Going forward, Paul can see a lot of landlords “looking at direct three and five-year tenancies with councils offering guaranteed rent,” because landlords will be worried about their tenants’ employment situations. But that’s looking forward.

As for what landlords can do right now to stem the tide? Write to your MP to outline the importance of addressing COVID-related arrears and how this is affecting your business and others in your area. Because, while we are pleased that the Government is going ahead with the end of these emergency measures, nothing has been done as of yet to address the rent debt crisis.

It’s also important for landlords to open a dialogue and mediate with their tenants, working that much harder to reach an amicable solution because taking it to the courts is going to mean long delays due to the backlog of cases.

The Property Redress Scheme tenancy mediation service is an NRLA-endorsed scheme that exists for this very reason – sorting disputes with common sense and practical advice. Paul also thinks that landlords will need to be a lot more stringent with their referencing and will insist on having guarantors.

Whatever curve balls 2021 continues to bring us – such as clarification on the abolishment of Section 21 ‘no fault evictions’ in this autumn’s Renter’s Reform Bill – it’s up to us to work together as a sector to hold each other up.

It’s only by working together that the private landlords of this country, and the 4.5 million renters that live in their properties, can continue to coexist in harmony. COVID or no COVID.

 

If you are an independent landlord in further need of guidance regarding residential tenant eviction, contact Landlord Action today.

Landlord FAQs

Find the answers you need to all of your landlord insurance related questions