Landlord Repossession Under s21: Serving Notice
The Deregulation Act 2015 means that there are 2 different regimes in operation for the serving of s21 notices under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Which one is actually used depends on whether the AST commenced before or after the 1st October 2015.
1: S21 (1) (b)
This notice can be served where the tenancy began before the 1st October 2015 but has not been renewed after that date. It can be served whether the tenancy is a) in the fixed or periodic term if there has been a fixed term tenancy at some stage which has ended and b) any periodic tenancy has not arisen by way of a contractual provision in the tenancy. For a bit of background, in 2013 the Court of Appeal decided to use a new interpretation of s21 of the Housing Act 1988 in the case of Spencer v Taylor. So it upheld that a section 21(1)(b) would apply after a fixed term tenancy ended and a statutory periodic tenancy was created. Until it was heard in the Supreme Court, legal practitioners were exercising caution by continuing to advise landlords to serve notice under Section 21(4) where a fixed term tenancy had automatically turned periodic. However on 24th July 2014 the Supreme Court refused permission to appeal to Miss Taylor on the basis that no new points of law were raised. This means that the Court of Appeal decision stands and a notice under Section 21(1)(b) can continue to be served for those fixed term tenancies that have now converted to statutory periodic tenancies, providing at least 2 months notice.There is no need to use a s.21(4)(a) notice, or have a date of expiry at the end of a period of the tenancy.
2: S21 (4) (a)
This notice can also be served where the tenancy began before the 1st October 2015 but has not been renewed after that date, instead becoming a periodic tenancy. Where this notice has to be used (i.e. the fixed term tenancy has ended and the decision in Spencer v Taylor is not applicable), the notice must provide 2 months’ notice from the date the rent is payable. There is now however a relaxation of date requirement in this notice which means landlords don’t need to specify the last day of a period of the tenancy as the date of the tenancy comes to an end. So, whatever date a notice is served, it is deemed served two days after that date in order to allowing 2 working days for the notice to be received by the tenant once posted. However, landlords and their letting agents must remain aware that the date specified in the notice must still be (a) not earlier than 2 months from the date on which the notice is given and (b) not earlier than the earliest date on which the tenancy could be brought to an end under the traditional common law rules (by means of a notice to quit).
There is no longer a separate notice to be served when the fixed term converts to a periodic tenancy. Now there is a new formal legal notice for use with fixed term or statutory periodic tenancies, with no option for a landlord to write his own. A standard section 21 makes it less complex as it means it has to be the correct notice. All earlier notices are obsolete from 30th September 2015 and should be disposed of.
Under this ‘old’ regime s21 (1)(b) and (4)(a) notices do not need to be in any prescribed form. They must however be in writing, giving not less than two calendar months’ notice. In addition, a s21(4)(a) notice must a) expire at the end of a period of the tenancy and b) give not less than one period of the tenancy’s notice, such as a quarter should rent be paid quarterly.
Again under this ‘old’ regime, a s21 can’t be served in the following circumstances:
- The first 4 months of the tenancy as the court cannot make a possession order in the first 6 months of the AST;
- Served under ‘retaliatory evictions’
- Served in the absence of an EPC, gas safe certificate and ‘How to Rent Guide.’
The old s21 notices are invalid if the landlord has not:
- Obtained a HMO license for a property that should have one;
- Registered the deposit and provide the prescribed information to the tenant within 30 days of the commencement of the tenancy.
3: S21 Form 6A
A s21 form 6A is the new notice for where the tenancy commenced after 1st October 2015 and is used for notices that are reliant on both the s21(1)(b) and s21(4)(a) provisions. It explicitly states on the first page that “it may nevertheless be used for all ASTs”.
Where a s21(4)(a) notice is being used on form 6A then it can expire on any day, rather than expiring a the end of a period. The notice is a prescribed form so landlords (or their agents) must only complete the relevant sections, adding nothing else. The notice must clearly state:
- The date of the creation of the notice;
- The name and address of the tenant;
- The date that possession is required which must also allow time for posting;
- The name, telephone number and address of the person completing and signing the notice, i.e. either the landlord or their agent. Note that if it is the agent signing the notice then then the address must be that of the company that they work for and not their personal address.
SERVING S21 NOTICES UNDER THE DEREGULATION ACT 2015
The following provision comes under s33 of the Deregulation Act 2015 (preventing retaliatory eviction) which was introduced to prevent those landlords who were failing to meet their repair obligations from serving a s21 notice when the tenant complained.
1: If a property has not been kept adequately repaired and maintained according to the requirements of s11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (repairing obligations under short leases), the tenant needs to make a written complaint about the conditions. If a reply in writing is not sent by the landlord which sets out his proposed actions and a timeline within 14 days of the complaint having been raised, in default a s21 eviction notice cannot be served.
2: If the landlord (a) fails to reply or (b) replies by serving a s21 notice or (c) gives an inadequate reply that the tenant is unhappy with, the tenant may then complain to the local authority who must inspect the property. The local authority may then in turn decide to serve an improvement notice requiring works to be undertaken under the Housing Act 2004 (specifically the Housing Health and Safety Ratings System). If such notice is served then no valid section 21 eviction notice may be served for 6 months from the date of that notice. Any s21 notice already served will be rendered ineffective and no further notice can then be served for 6 months.
3: For tenancies which first begin on or after 1st October 2015 it will not be possible to give a section 21 notice in the first 4 months of the tenancy. In the case of replacement tenancies i.e. a new tenancy with same parties and the same premises as previous tenancy, the relevant period is 4 months from the day on which the original tenancy began.
Once a s21 notice has been given, possession proceedings must be commenced (where appropriate) within 6 months of it having been served. Before this, the longest time between issuing the notice and starting possession proceedings was 8 years! So once issued, landlords must be ready to act on it otherwise they will not be able to! For notices given under section 21(4)(a) (on statutory periodic tenancies), the relevant period is 4 months from the date of expiry of the notice.
4: Landlords need to prove that they have issued their tenants with a Gas Safe Certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate and a copy of the government publication ‘How To Rent: The Checklist For Renting In England’ which can be given in hard copy or the tenant can tell the landlord/agent of an email address to which it can be sent. These are prescribed legal requirements for all tenancies created from October 1st 2015 and no s21 notice can be given if the tenant has not received them.