Last Friday afternoon, the government amended the Coronavirus Act which has the effect of changing the notice periods required to be given to residential tenants. The changes came into force on Saturday 29th August 2020.
The amendments are made via The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020. The Regulations are not clearly drafted and seek instead to amend the amendments that were brought in by the Coronavirus Act 2020 which makes it rather complicated to decipher precisely what the changes are. However, in summary, the changes affecting assured and assured shorthold (including fixed term) tenancies appear to be these:
- Section 21 Notices – not less than 6 months’ notice must be given and the time for issuing proceedings pursuant to a S21 Notice has been extended, so the ‘life’ of a S21 Notice is now 10 months from the date of service and not 6 months.
- S8 Notices (Notices Seeking Possession or NOSP) – not less than 6 months’ notice unless one of the exceptions apply (see below)
Exceptions which apply when using a S8 Notice
Happily, there are some exceptions which will help social landlords. These are:
- If the arrears at the date of service of the S8 Notice are more than the equivalent of 6 monthly instalments, only 4 weeks’ notice needs to be given (using Grounds 8, 10 and/or 11). This is provided no other ground is cited in the Notice.
- For Ground 7A (the Absolute Ground), the notice period of three months previously imposed has been suspended which implies that we revert to the previous notice period of one month though this is not specified.
- For Ground 14, the notice period of three months previously imposed has also been suspended and so it would appear that we revert to no notice period. If relying on this ground, proceedings can be issued after service of the notice (but subject to the stay on any proceedings until 20 September which is, of course, still in place).
- For Grounds 14A (domestic violence), 14Z (the ‘riot’ ground), or 17 (where a tenant has made false representations to secure a tenancy), the notice period is now two weeks, but only if you do not rely on any other grounds at the same time.
Validity of notices already served
If you have already served a S21 or S8 Notice they will remain valid unless you happened to serve by post on Friday 28 August. In that case, by the time the notice is deemed served, it will be invalid. You should re-serve any notices served on Friday, giving the new period of notice.
If you have recently served a 3-month notice (Section 8) relying on the rent arrear grounds, but the arrears in question are more than the equivalent of 6 monthly instalments, you could choose to withdraw the notice already served and issue a new notice, giving 4 weeks. You would need to send a carefully worded covering letter to explain that you are relying on the second notice and not the first.
Which form of notice to use
When serving a S8 Notice, if you wish to rely on grounds 7A or 14, you should use the older form of notice (pre the Coronavirus Act 2020 modifications) so ensure that it gives the correct notice periods in the information for tenants. The new Regulations have suspended the use of the modified notice so it would be wrong to use it for grounds 7A or 14.
For all other S8 Notices, continue to use the newer, modified form of notice, despite the fact that the notice will now be incorrect, referring to 3 months instead of the new 6 months. There may well be further modified forms of notice introduced, but this hasn’t appeared yet.
If you’ve managed to follow all of that, you will be doing well! Please don’t hesitate to call me if you have any queries.