Lockdown has caused no end of confusion. And despite now being partially lifted, some legal areas, including Section 21 notices, are still subject to variations.

In this article we explain what Section 21 notices are, how they have been varied during the current coronavirus outbreak, and what this means for landlords and tenants.

This article was updated on 25 August 2020 to reflect amendments to the Coronavirus Act 2020.

What is Section 21?

Section 21 notices are derived from Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. They outline the process for landlords to repossess a property that has been rented to tenants. Section 21 applies specifically to assured shorthold tenancy agreements which are the most common form of residential tenancies.

Evictions through Section 21 are known as no fault evictions and can only be carried out when a tenant’s fixed term tenancy has ended, or for open-ended tenancies. They cannot be used to evict a tenant who has breached the terms of their contract.

If a tenant has broken the terns if their tenancy, you’ll need to issue a Section 8 notice, specifying the clause that they breached.

However, there are situations where it can be useful to issue both a Section 21 and a Section 8 notice, or a Section 21 notice instead of a Section 8 notice. For example, if a fixed term tenancy has ended, but a tenant has fallen into arrears, a landlord may seek to issue a Section 21 notice despite the terms of the contract being broken. This mainly happens because a Section 21 notice is typically cheaper to issue and process, and less likely to be contested.

It’s also important to note that a Section 21 notice only outlines the intent to evict, it doesn’t automatically mean a tenant is evicted. If a Section 21 notice is successfully served, landlords still need to seek a possession order to repossess their property.

What is the Coronavirus Act 2020 and what are its impacts on Section 21?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 was introduced in response to the Covid-19 disease outbreak in the United Kingdom. The act was made law on 25 March 2020 and is widely referred to as the CVA 2020. The act grants powers to the government and local authorities to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus.

As part of the act, there are provisions dealing with the possession of a property under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. These are contained in the Coronavirus Act at Section 81.

For example, Section 81 increases the minimum notice period of Section 21 notices from 2 months to 3 months for any notices served before 29 August 2020, and to 6 months for any notices served after. It’s likely this guidance will be revised again as the coronavirus pandemic evolves.

All possession orders are stayed until 20 September 2020.

Furthermore, landlords who commenced proceedings under Section 21 of the Housing Act before 25 March 2020 are still able to issue a notice. However, under the civil procedure rule, practice direction 51Z, the possession order will not be considered by the court until 20 September 2020. This has been extended from the original date of 25 June 2020.

The rules have been introduced to protect tenants living in rented properties from eviction during the coronavirus outbreak. It’s likely the stay has been extended as the impact on the job market, and subsequent repercussions on incomes and people’s abilities to pay rent are still widely unknown.

Section 21 Notices and the Coronavirus Act 2020

What does this mean?

Landlords can still request Section 21 possession orders in the County Court. However, the court will effectively ignore any such requests until after 20 September 2020. Given the extension of the original June termination date, there’s currently no guarantee there will not be another extension of this date.

If all goes well, after 20 September, the stay should be lifted and courts will once again issue possession orders. But while proceedings will be allowed to resume, this doesn’t mean eviction orders will be instantly approved. There is likely to be a large backlog of cases that will cause further delays to any existing and proposed evictions.

If you are a landlord that has not yet requested a possession order, it’s still possible to do so after the 3-month Section 21 notice period has passed. But possession proceedings must be brought within 6 months of the date of service of the Section 21 notice.

As the Coronavirus Act 2020 is still in force, this may mean landlords will need to seek a fresh Section 21 notice if the preceding notice was served before 20 March 2020 as it will have expired.

Key Takeaways under Section 21

  1. Any eviction proceedings are stayed until at least 20 September 2020
  2. Section 21 notices served before 29 August 2020 need to offer a minimum of 3 months advance notice of an intended eviction, instead of 2 months
  3. Section 21 notices served after 29 August 2020 need to offer a minimum of 6 months advance notice of an intended eviction
  4. Section 21 notices issued before 20 March 2020 may need to be re-issued before a possession order can be sought as it may have expired

If you are a landlord looking to recover possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, then our landlord solicitors in Brighton and Hove are happy to give an initial fixed rate consultation over the telephone or by video link. Call now on 01273 726951 or click here to navigate to our contact us page.