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It is estimated that at least 800,000 private renters are currently in rental arrears with this number increasing daily due to the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inevitably this is likely to give rise to increased numbers of possession proceedings.
Usually the law only requires that landlords give two months’ notice when serving a Section 21. However, since 29 August 2020 as a result of the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, tenants must be given at least six months’ notice.
Where Section 21 Notices have been served on or after 29 August 2020, landlords are required to commence proceedings within four months of the date they have specified. Otherwise, the Section 21 is rendered invalid and a new one must be served in order for the landlord to take possession of the property.
As of February 2021, all Section 21 evictions have been placed on hold until 31 May 2021 and it is possible that this deadline will be extended further by the government. After this date, or after the revised date, the County Court Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer is required to give at least two weeks’ notice of an eviction to the tenant.
The notice period of six months will remain in place until at least 31 May 2021 and, like the eviction ban, it may be extended. It is therefore important that landlords consider serving notice sooner rather than later.
If you made a possession claim before 3 August 2020 you must file and serve a reactivation notice to tell the Court you want to continue with your claim on or before 4pm on 30 April 2021.
Since the ban on possession proceedings was lifted on 20 September 2020, once the notice period of a valid Section 21 notice has expired, if a tenant fails to vacate a property after the specified date then the landlord may commence proceedings and apply for a Court order. This can be done via the accelerated possession procedure if you are not claiming rent arrears (a separate county court claim can be made for any rental arrears).
As long as the Section 21 Notice is valid, the court must make an Order for Possession which orders that the tenant be out of the property by a particular date (usually between two and six weeks depending upon the tenant’s individual circumstances). If the tenant does not vacate the property then a landlord is in a position to apply for a warrant or writ of possession once the eviction ban is lifted in May or later.
It is a criminal offence to unlawfully deprive the occupant (tenant or otherwise) of their occupation of a premises unless a landlord can prove they had reason to believe that the occupant no longer resides at the property.
Likewise it is a criminal offence to interfere with the peace and comfort of the occupant or other members of their household or persistently withdraw or withhold services reasonably required for the occupation of a residence with the intention of causing the occupant to:
Landlords found guilty of any of these offences may receive a fine or a prison term of up to two years.
If a lawful occupant continues to reside at a property after the end of a tenancy agreement without consent, the landlord must not enforce their right to recover possession by any means other than court proceedings failing which they may face criminal conviction.
Since 1 October 2015, landlords have not been permitted to use a Section 21 Notice to recover possession if they have not given their tenants copies of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate, a Gas Safety Record (if applicable) and the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide.
Additionally, a tenant’s deposit must have been placed in a Deposit Protection Scheme within 30 days of the start of the tenancy agreement, and must not exceed five weeks’ worth of rent, in order for the Section 21 Notice to be valid.
A Section 21 Notice may also not be valid if the property needs a HMO (house in multiple occupation) licence which has not been obtained or applied for, or if an Improvement Notice or Emergency Works Notice has been served by the council during the last six months.
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