On 9 September, the Government laid out new regulations following the Coronavirus Act 2020 concerning notices periods and new forms which will take effect on 1 October 2021.
The new regulations
There has been yet another development with respect to statutory notice periods when seeking possession of residential tenancies, the latest link in a long chain of amendments.
In short, the notice periods for Assured and Assured Shorthold Tenancies will be reverting to the “pre-pandemic” position. The key date for your diaries is 1 October 2021, the day that the changes will take effect. There are also some new forms prescribed that landlords will need to be sure to use, once in effect.
The new regulations are cited as the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies and Notices) (Amendment and Suspension) (England) Regulations 2021 (“the New Regulations”).
The New Regulations amend the original Coronavirus Act 2020. That Act lays out the well-documented increase to notice periods introduced (as the title of the act suggests) because of COVID-19. Schedule of the Act 29 states that the “relevant period” in which the provisions of the Schedule apply ends on 30 September 2021.
The New Regulations have amended the relevant period to now end on 25 March 2022.
However, this does not mean that the elongated periods remain, as the New Regulations have suspended Schedule 29, paragraphs 2, 3 and 5-10(1). These are the provisions that prescribe longer notice periods for possession. Suspension of these provisions suspends the need for longer notice.
It is important to note that this is only a suspension of the relevant legislation, not a termination.
As such, there is a possibility that longer notice periods may be re-introduced. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic last winter resulted in the tightening of restrictions in early 2021, and while vaccination levels have increased since, this legislation has left the Government scope to re-apply the notice periods if the same occurs this winter. The extension of this power runs with the relevant period, ending on 25 March 2022.
The New Regulations introduce new prescribed forms, found in Schedule to the New Regulations:
- Notice Requiring Possession of a Property in England let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy – Form No 3 (i.e. HA 1988 s 8)
- Notice Requiring Possession of a Property in England let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy – Form No 6A (i.e HA 1988 s 21(1) and (4)).
- Notice of seeking termination of a fixed term tenancy and recovery of possession under section 83 of the Housing Act 1985.
These forms must be used as appropriate from 1 October 2021 onwards.
What does this mean for our clients?
It is worth noting that the suspension of longer notice periods will not apply to any notices that are served before this date, or on the wrong prescribed form.
Clients should be sure to use the right form and notice period. Any landlord considering serving a notice under section 8 and 21 HA 1988 should wait until 1 October, and ensure the new form is used. This will allow said landlord to make use of the shorter notice period as above.
To avoid using the wrong forms, landlords should be sure to update any precedents and avoid re-using old forms. Best practice would be to use the Government website whenever issuing a fresh notice, as this (usually) contains the most up to date version of the form.
Landlords must also be mindful that CPR Practice Direction 55C is still in force until the end of November. This temporarily modifies Part 55, so consider speaking to us for guidance on the amendments.