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Social Housing Speed Read – The Government announces reduced notice periods for tenant evictions

On 12 May 2021, the Government announced that from 1 June 2021 they will be introducing new notice periods for Notices to Quit and Notices Seeking Possession (by virtue of The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021).

From 1 June 2021 to 30 September 2021, as part of a phased approach back to normality, a 4 month notice period will be required for all Rent Act, secure, introductory, demoted, assured and assured shorthold tenancies; possession proceedings can now be issued for up to 8 months from the date of service of a Section 21 notice. It is the Government’s intention to re-introduce pre-pandemic notice periods from 1 October 2021 – dependent upon the guidance of public health officials.

The exceptions to the rule will continue as during the pandemic, with the following notice periods being applicable in special cases:

  • Anti-social behaviour – immediate to 4 weeks’ notice
  • Domestic abuse in the social sector – 2-4 weeks’ notice
  • False statement – 2-4 weeks’ notice
  • Breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ – 2 weeks’ notice
  • Death of a tenant – 2 months’ notice

For accrued rent arrears of over 4 months, the notice period will be changed to 4 weeks. From 1 August 2021, for notices served on the basis of less than 4 months’ rent arrears, the notice period will be reduced to 2 months.

The Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment) and Suspension (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 has also introduced new prescribed Forms 3 (section 8 notice) and 6A (section 21 notice) which must be used for any notice deemed served on or after 1 June. These amended forms incorporate references to the ‘breathing space’ regulations and new notice periods.

Given the imminence of these new rules coming into force, social housing providers should be mindful when issuing notices in the coming weeks. It will be more time and cost effective to wait until 1 June and serve a notice with a 4 month notice period, than to serve one with 6 months’ notice now. Where housing providers have already issued notices, not due to expire until after October 2021, serving a new notice in accordance with the new regulations, will speed up the process; this must be weighed up against the cost implications of re-issuing notices.

Bailiff enforced evictions

The Government also announced that the ban on bailiff enforced evictions will end on 31 May 2021; however cannot be utilised where someone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating. 14 days’ notice will be required prior to eviction. The Courts will however have an extensive back log of cases with which to deal and intend to continue prioritising the most serious cases, for example those including anti-social behaviour; do not expect any warrant for eviction to be processed quickly.

Moving forward

These new regulations are indicative of a phased return to pre-pandemic notice periods/regulations and have been introduced by the Government in an attempt to strike a more equitable balance between tenant protection and landlords’ access to justice.

On 12 May, the Government further announced its intention to publish a White Paper in Autumn, which will detail its proposals for the abolition of Section 21 evictions – intended to give tenants greater security – amongst other proposals designed to create a fairer system for both landlords and tenants. This is definitely one to watch out for and something which could have a significant impact on the way social housing providers deal with tenant evictions.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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