Section 21 – return to pre-pandemic notice periods

Balancing the rights of residential tenants and the interests of their landlords is a delicate act. The tenant needs to ensure they continue to have a roof over their head whereas the landlord needs to maintain control of their property assets and rental income. The Covid-19 pandemic placed a significant strain on the tenant/landlord relationship with the imposition of eviction restrictions. Ben Jones – Partner in Blanchards Bailey’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution team looks at how we are now seeing a gradual return to normality.

The pandemic posed particular challenges for residential landlords when the Government increased the required notice periods for landlords seeking to evict their tenants. The period under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 was increased by a up to four months to help alleviate the impact of Covid-19 on residents. A notice served by a landlord under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 begins the legal process to end an assured shorthold tenancy.

Whilst the decision to extend notice periods certainly provided a safety net for tenants, this left many landlords in a situation whereby they may had to endure up to six months of letting out their property without payment of rent before they could apply for a possession order to remove their tenants. Many landlords, therefore, were placed under significant financial strain due to the emergency legislation.

Although the right to sue for non-payment of rent remained, the reality of many situations was that tenants did not have the means to pay whether judgment was obtained or not. As such, litigation posed a costly and fruitless endeavour.

On 1 October 2021, the Government provided much needed relief for residential landlords by reducing the required Section 21 notice to pre-pandemic levels. Arguably, this one of the first steps of law and society returning in tandem to a state of “new normal”.

The table below puts the legislative changes into perspective:

Period in which S21 is served Minimum Notice Period
Pre-26th March 2020 2 months
26th March 2020 – 28th August 2020 3 months
29th August 2020 – 31st May 2021 6 months
1st June 2021 – 30th September 2021 4 months
1st October 2021 – present 2 months

As shown by the table above, any Section 21 notices served after 1st October 2021, only require up to two months of notice.

Tenants and landlords should note that a Section 21 Notice, whenever served, cannot bring the tenancy to an end prior to the end of the original fixed term of the tenancy. Only after the fixed term expires, when the tenancy reverts to a periodic shorthold tenancy, can the landlord serve a Section 21 Notice.

Additionally, landlords and tenants should be aware that any Section 21 Notices served prior to 1st October 2021 cannot be backdated and so will still be subject to the pandemic rules depending on in which period (as above) the Notice was served.

In any event and regardless of the pandemic, it should be noted that the pre-requisites for the service of a valid Section 21 notice remain the same. Specifically, the tenant must have been served with the following by the landlord prior to service of the Section 21 Notice:

  1. Gas safety certificate;
  2. EPC;
  3. The Government’s current “How To Rent” guidance booklet; and
  4. The deposit protection scheme certificate/ such information as may be prescribed by the relevant protection scheme.

This requirement is often overlooked by landlords and tenants, meaning the parties may be under the misapprehension that notice has been given whereas in fact, the Section 21 notice is not valid. This means that the notice period for eviction has not yet begun. In such a situation, service must be effected again to activate ‘the countdown’ on the relevant notice period.

If you have been affected by the recent legislative changes to Section 21, please contact our litigation and dispute resolution team on 01258 459361. 

Blanchards Bailey

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