Last August, we covered the regulations introduced by the Government to change to residential possession rules. One of the key changes was that the notice period for most notices was increased to six months. This change applied to notices served up until 31st March 2021.
As the Government has not yet published any transition legislation, as things stand, on 1st April 2021 the notice period requirements will revert back to their pre-COVID-19 length. This means that if you needed to serve a S.21 notice, it would be quicker not to serve a six-month notice now, but to wait until 1st April 2021 and then serve a two-month notice.
What will happen next?
Although this is the current position, it does seem unlikely that the Government will allow landlords who serve notices on or after 1st April 2021 to be able to start possession proceedings earlier than those who have served notices before this.
The Government might address this by introducing new regulations so that on 1st April 2021 the notice period goes back to three months, and then eventually back to two months. Alternatively, they could push back the 1st April 2021 deadline altogether by several more months.
The Government has also recently repeated its longer-term intention to do away with section 21 evictions altogether, so it might seek to introduce legislation to achieve this before 1st April 2021.
It is also possible that the Court’s existing Listing Priorities and the Overall Arrangements will be used to ensure priority for hearings is based upon when the notice was first served, not simply when the claim was filed.
When should I serve notice?
Considering the above, if you are seeking possession it would be sensible to serve a notice now.
The benefit of this approach is that if no changes are made and it becomes quicker to obtain possession by serving a notice on or after 1st April 2021, a second notice can be served without prejudice to the validity of the first.
By simply waiting until 1st April 2021 and, assuming that notice period requirements will revert back to their pre-COVID-19 length, you are taking an unnecessary risk. Given the backlog that Courts are already dealing with, this course of action could substantially increase the time it will take to obtain possession.
Pinney Talfourd are experts in residential property litigation and can advise you on changes to the law so you are given up to date advice.
This article was written by Oliver-James Topping, Solicitor in our Residential Property Litigation Team. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of January 2021.