Possession Update: Recent Changes to Evictions and Notice Periods

Coronavirus has had a significant impact on the Civil Courts, particularly in relation to possession proceedings and evictions.

The latest eviction ban imposed by the Government ended on 31 May 2021. In addition to this, the Government has amended and extended provisions relating to notice periods for Section 8 and 21 notices, allowing tenants a greater period of time to search for, and obtain, new housing.

Evictions

While the eviction ban has now been completely lifted and evictions themselves are taking place, the Government has allowed for an important provision which restricts evictions from taking place where the tenant(s) or anyone living with them have:-

  • Symptoms of Coronavirus,
  • Tested positive for Coronavirus,
  • Been told to self-isolate by the NHS.

In these instances, the tenant will need to contact the bailiffs immediately to inform them of the circumstances. The eviction will then be re-arranged for a later date with a minimum of 14 days’ notice given to the tenant(s).

Notice Periods

As regard notice periods for Section 8 and 21 notices, these too have changed. During the first lockdown, between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020, the notice period for both a Section 21 and Section 8 notice was at least 3 months. After this time, the Government increased the notice period to at least 6 months, taking effect 29 August 2020. As of 1 June 2020, this has been reduced to a maximum of 4 months for both Section 8 and Section 21 notices.

Where substantial rent arrears have accrued, that is arrears totalling more than 4 months’ rent, the Landlord is entitled to a reduced notice period and from 1 June 2020, the notice period is 4 weeks. From 1 August 2021 the notice period will be reduced to 2 months where rent arrears total less than 4 months’ rent.

There are, of course, further provisions which allow for significantly reduced notice periods; however, these are only afforded in serious cases where significant strain is placed on the Landlord. This includes anti-social behaviour, here the notice period is 4 weeks, domestic abuse in the social sector or false statement, here the notice period is 2-4 weeks, breach of immigration rules, here the notice period is 2 weeks, or the death of a tenant, here the notice period is 2 months.

In addition to the above, after 1 June 2020, proceedings must now be issued within 8 months after service of a Section 21 notice. Where a Section 21 notice was served between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021, the Landlord must issue proceedings within 10 months.

The Government has set out a roadmap to periodically revise notice periods. At time of writing, it is estimated that the notice periods will be revised on 30 September 2021 and it is expected that they will revert to pre-COVID timeframes.

Written by Elaine Bathers and Diana Migo