Emergency measures introduced at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 extended the minimum notice period for ending Assured Shorthold Tenancies from two months to six months.
Today marks the start of a phased return to pre-pandemic notice periods. The minimum six month notice period has now reduced to four months.
Notice periods for Rent Act Tenancies and Assured Tenancies have also been adjusted.
This does not affect the time scale for notices that have already been served.
|Date of Notice||Minimum Notice Period|
|Before 26 March 2020||2 months|
|Between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020||3 months|
|Between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021||6 months|
|On or after 1 June 2021||4 months|
As a result the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has issued new prescribed forms of notices requiring possession as well as updating guidance on their use.
MHCLG has confirmed that the Courts will continue to prioritise the most serious cases such as those involving fraud, anti-social behaviour and where there is no right to rent.
The ban on bailiff-enforced evictions, another emergency measure introduced during lockdown, has also ended today although these will need to be postponed if anyone in the property has Covid-like symptoms or is self-isolating leaving it open for some tenants to attempt to temporarily frustrate the process.
MHCLG has updated its guidance for both landlords and tenants (“Understanding the possession action process”) which focuses on landlords letting to tenants under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. It is designed to help landlords in particular understand what rights and responsibilities they have when they need to take Court action to regain possession of their property especially in the light of the new rules on notice periods and the ending of the eviction ban.
The reduction of the notice period will be welcome news for residential landlords in general – not just those facing rent arrears and breaches of tenancy – but also for those simply wanting to regain their property and potentially sell it. The long notice period has meant that many landlords have been unable to sell with vacant possession and have feared missing out on potential sales during the current climate of soaring property prices and SDLT relief. Static rents, the reduction of tax reliefs and increasingly tenant-friendly letting regulations have made residential lettings for private landlords increasingly unattractive especially for those 45% who own just one property, often to supplement pension income, and are highly vulnerable to rent arrears.
It is less good for tenants, despite the MHCLG press release announcing the changes being described as “support for renters”. A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that more than 800,000 households face losing their home, half of which have already been served with a notice requiring possession. However tenants who are continuing to struggle to pay their rent due to pandemic induced financial hardship are still supported with living costs – which includes rent – through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Universal Credit Uplift both of which are currently due to end on 30 September 2021.
It is anticipated that notice periods will revert to their pre-pandemic levels of a minimum of two months on 1st October 2021. However this is not a certainty as, like everything associated with getting back to normal, public health concerns will be taken into consideration before a final decision is made.
Also set for the autumn will be the publication of a White Paper setting out proposals to create a fairer private rented sector that works for both landlords and tenants. It is expected that it will include proposals for the abolition of “no fault” evictions and a new “lifetime deposit” to ease the burden when moving.
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