Landlord and Tenant – Possession Claims: an Update

By George Burton

Senior Associate

The latest changes to the procedure for obtaining possession of a residential property were ushered in on 1 October 2021. In recent months, we have all enjoyed taking the first tentative steps back to normality; and these changes represent precisely that for landlords with the required length of notice to be given to tenants reverting to pre-pandemic lengths.

By way of brief reminder, a Landlord seeking to recover possession of residential premises let under an assured shorthold tenancy have, for the purposes of this note, 2 notice options. The notice required will depend upon the circumstances. Both notices take their names from sections of the Housing Act 1988. A “Section 8” Notice is used where one of the specified grounds for possession apply. By way of an example, one of the most commonly used grounds relates to arrears of rent. The second notice, or a “Section 21 Notice” is often referred to as the “Accelerated Procedure”. Here, a landlord does not have to prove default on the part of the tenant but the relevant procedure must be followed to ensure the notice is valid.

So, what are the latest changes to the requirements? For a Section 8 Notice served on or after 1 October 2021, the notice period for seeking possession of a residential property in England reverted back to what it was, pre-pandemic. The length of notice required will depend upon the ground of possession being sought. For Section 21 Notices, it is a similar story. In England, notice has reverted to the pre-pandemic length and a minimum of two months’ notice must be given.

However, the government has retained its emergency powers to impose longer notice periods until 25 March 2022 in both cases. Longer notice periods could, therefore, be re-introduced once again should circumstances change.

An interesting development is the introduction of a new prescribed form of notice in each case. The notices now constitute not just the notice but also a new “notes” form which includes information to the landlord and tenant which was previously contained within the notice itself.

Given that the new form for both section 8 and 21 notices start with a heading setting out important information for tenants, a landlord may be forgiven for thinking that the notice still includes all the information required. It is unclear if that was the intention. However, in recent years, decisions have been handed down, which have challenged the validity of notices that have been served incorrectly or where a landlord has failed to provide relevant information. It would be wise to assume a similar approach will be taken in respect of any notice not served with the supporting notes form.

In my opinion, the intention of the new format for the notices is to make the information more accessible to both landlords and tenants. This is, of course, laudable but set against the background of decisions and detailed procedural requirements which need to be complied with to ensure notices are valid, this serves as a useful reminder of the need to double check all the required information has been provided before either notice is served.

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