Possession proceedings are changing again for private landlords. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began the Government has changed the notice period for private landlords obtaining possession proceedings multiple times. This has led to some confusion in regards to how landlords may seek possession.
However, now that restrictions have eased the government has laid legislation that has returned notice periods to their pre-pandemic levels in England and Wales.
Within this article we will explain;
- The notice period available to private landlords and the notice period as it stands
- The process of obtaining possession should the tenant not vacate upon expiry of the notice and the stages to go through
What are the current notice period requirements?
Private landlords can either serve a Section 8 notice in Form 3 or a Section 21 notice in Form 6a. This will depend on the reason for eviction.
As of 1 October 2021, notice periods returned to their pre-pandemic levels. The following notice periods apply for Assured Shorthold Tenancies:
- Section 21 notice is two months and this cannot expire before the end of the fixed term
- Section 8 using the rent arrears grounds (8, 10 and 11) is two weeks
However, if you served a notice between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2021, the notice period needed to be as follows:
- 26 March 2020 to 28 August 2020, a 3 month notice period was required in all cases
- 29 August 2020 to 31 May 2021, a 6 month notice period was required in most cases with exceptions to some serious cases
- 1 June 2021 until 30 September 2021, a notice period of 4 months was required in most cases and again this also had exemptions for certain serious cases
Due to the unpredictability of the virus the extended notice periods have been suspended rather than abolished entirely. While there are no plans currently to reintroduce longer notice periods, in the event of another lockdown the Government retains the power to bring them back. The new legislation introduces a new version of Section 8 and Section 21 notice for private landlords to use. Both the Form 6a (Section 21 notice) and the Form 3 (Section 8 notice) are prescribed forms so landlords must ensure they use the correct version before service.
What happens should the tenant not vacate the property after expiry of the notice?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Court delays have been severe. Many cases will have built up and the courts will not be operating at their full capacity. Therefore, it is likely to take longer than the usual 8 weeks for your claim to be heard by a judge. Landlords are therefore encouraged to try and resolve matters before and reach an amicable solution that avoids seeking possession.
If the tenant does not leave by the date specified in the notice, then the landlord can apply to the court for a possession order. Once this has been filed and issued by the Court, the tenant can submit a defence to the court. The tenant can do the following;
- Put forward legal reasons why a possession order should not be made
- Make a counterclaim
- Ask for extra time to vacate
The landlord will then receive the date and time of the possession hearing, and any further directions by way of a court order.
There are three orders the judge can make in the hearing these being;
- To adjourn the hearing meaning it will be moved to a later date
- Dismiss the Landlord’s claim, meaning that your claim will have been unsuccessful for reasons which the judge must make clear
- Make a possession order
If a possession order is granted, but the tenant remains in situ, then the landlord can apply to the courts for a warrant for possession. The courts will then issue a notice of the bailiff’s appointment. An appointment will be scheduled with a minimum of 14 days’ notice given to the tenant. If the tenant does not leave before the appointment, the bailiff will carry out an eviction.