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End of Tenancy and Possession Claims – the Process

End of tenancy and possession claims for residential - March 2022 update from LMP Law

Landlords and tenants in 2022 and termination of tenancies, it’s been busy, hasn’t it? The last couple of years have seen some huge changes and adaptations for possession claims. Owing to the Covid 19 pandemic, so many residential tenants have been impacted because of changes to work including sudden redundancies or sadly worse, but being a private landlord hasn’t been much fun either, so this article is here to update you on changes and timescales helping landlords reclaim their properties.  

As is often the case in the UK, the middle earners seem to have been hit the most, without specific help from the state although of course there were many grants handed out (we’re paying from them now though, aren’t we?!).  Luckily, for tenants on low-income struggling with rent arrears the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said it was giving a £65m support package to them which by default helped the landlords in return. 

So, back to a getting your property back.

Time to end that tenancy? 

The last couple of years for landlords have been a ride haven’t they….? Without being able to issue possession proceedings when Covid 19 hit our shores it has been really tough for many private residential tenants and of course their landlords. Statistics from the Government showed that landlord possession claims for October to December 2021 compared with figures for the same quarter previously in 2019 (pre Covid) were:

  • Possession Claims decreased by 43%
  • Possession Orders decreased 67%
  • Warrants decreased by 67%
  • Repossessions by 64% 

However, when compared to the same quarter jumping forward to 2020, there was over a 100% increase recorded across all actions. 

From 21 September 2020 the suspension on possession claims ended however, which meant that if a landlord who had delayed serving their Section 21 and Section 8 notices were now able to commence the processes again. It seemed like it was all go, but in reality, the world was still very much at odds with the Pandemic and many Court staff were off sick or self-isolating! There was a massive backlog and therefore the cases that were prioritised were based on 1) anti-social behaviour, 2) domestic violence or 3) whether the rent arrears were so severe that it was damaging to a landlord’s financial situation.  

It is understandable that there are now various difficulties in navigating this landscape for both tenants and landlords which is why here at LMP Law, we can take the stress away and easing that headache.

How to end a tenancy? 

There are two routes to end a tenancy agreement, either by serving a s.8 notice (The Housing Act 1988) or s.21 notice.

Section 8 Notice

A s.8 notice route requires statutory grounds for ending a tenancy and these grounds usually relate to a breach of the agreement in some way. The most common ground is of course is rent arrears, or simply put, just non-payment of rent. The notice period depends on the statutory ground you’d be terminating on, do speak to us if you’d like to know more on this particular question. Currently, for example, the notice period for non-payment of rent is 4 weeks.

Here’s are other examples when you can serve a Section 8 notice:

  • rent arrears
  • damage to the property
  • causing a nuisance to neighbours (anti-social behaviour)
  • breach of contract terms
  • the landlord wants to move back into the property
  • the property is being repossessed by the mortgagee

 

What a landlord MUST do to ensure their Section 8 notice is completed correctly is so important – imagine doing all the hard work to get to this point for it to be thrown out of court! Honestly, do call me or one of the team here if you need the legalities and forms to be filled out correctly! 

Make sure the Section 8 notice has:

  1. Name
  2. Address of the property
  3. The grounds for possession
  4. Date the notice ends

We can work make sure all the paperwork and grounds are watertight.

Section 21 Notice 

The second route to terminating tenancies is the Section 21 notice which allows a landlord to evict its tenants because:

  • The fixed term tenancy ends – if there’s a written contract
  • There is a tenancy with no fixed end date – known as a ‘periodic’ tenancy

This notice is considered as a no-fault possession notice and is merely notifying the tenant that the tenancy is ending and at the date, they must vacate the premises. The current notice period is 4 months.

It’s important to highlight that for any tenancy after 1 October 2015, the following must have been done in order to serve a s.21 notice. 

  • How to rent booklet was provided to the tenant prior to them moving into the property;
  • The deposit was protected within 30 days of the tenancy stating and the prescribed information was provided to the tenant;
  • The most recent valid gas safety certificate has been provided to the tenant; and 
  • The most recent valid energy performance certificate was provided to the tenant. 

 

If you have any questions about the above, then feel free to contact LMP Law and we will be happy to advise on the options available to you. 

Possession Claims – The Process 

Possession claims are rarely taken lightly. The impact of Covid-19 was devasting to so many residential properties, both landlords and tenants were severely impacted. It’s understandable that there have been many tenants who were left in financially unstable situations. The government had to put in place a set of rules to assist tenants in order to ensure that people were not made homeless for something outside of their control. However, there seemed to be very little consideration to the landlords suffering without receiving rent for a number of months and the arrears building. In some cases, it accrued to the huge sum of £44,000.00.

The first part of the possession claim process and terminating the tenancy is to serve notice.

Serving Notice on a Tenant to Termination the Tenancy Agreement 

If you require your tenants to vacate your property then legally you must give them notice. That notice must specify a date by which the landlord is asking the tenant to vacate the property, and after which possession proceedings may be started in the county court.

From 1 October 2021, everything returned to its pre-pandemic lengths for notice periods.  A few caveats to bear in mind though are:

If you served a notice between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2021, the notice period needed to be different:

  • From 26 March 2020 to 28 August 2020, a notice period of 3 months was required in all cases.
  • From 29 August 2020 to 31 May 2021, a notice period of 6 months was required in most cases (not including anti-social behaviour, extreme rent arrears, no right to rent and fraud).
  • From 1 June 2021 until 30 September 2021, a notice period of 4 months was required in most cases (not including anti-social behaviour, extreme rent arrears, no right to rent and fraud).

What happens once the Notice Period has come to an end? 

Once the notice period has come to an end, the next step is to issue a possession claim. Through Covid LMP Law have been sending tenant-means forms requesting our clients’ tenants provide details regarding their current financial circumstances. We found this way of communication, together with evidence to back it up, worked well – for both sides.

A possession claim will no longer be listed for a hearing straight away; it will now be listed for a review hearing which will be at least 28 days from the possession hearing. The review hearing is for the Judge to ensure that all the papers are in order and gives an opportunity to the tenant to receive legal advice on the matter. It also allows the parties to come to some sort of agreement regarding ending the tenancy or paying the rent arrears.  

Finally, we get to a hearing. Providing there are no issues and all the requirements have been met, you should be given a possession order with possession being granted in 14 days. 

Note: As a reminder there must be at least 4 (and no more than 8) weeks between the claim and court hearing. Possession orders state when a tenant has to vacate the property, which is generally  4 weeks from the date the order was made. Landlords can’t issue a warrant until after these time scales (if the tenant has failed to comply).

 

Finally, its done!!! 

This is a longer process and from start to finish, it can take up to 9 months just to get the possession order. If bailiffs are required then this can prolong the process even more. This is not intended to dissuade the landlords from taking any action, but it is the current reality. We can only hope that these changes will revert back to make a smoother journey for a fraught landlord wanting possession of their property. 

If you have any questions our doors are always open – drop us an email.

Laura