Is the section 21 notice now a risk?Make Text Bigger
Under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, once an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement has come to an end, a landlord has the legal right to recover possession of their property should they wish.
A landlord wishing to re-gain possession of a property is required to serve a Section 21 Notice to tenants. They do not have to give any reason for ending the tenancy.
There are strict rules for landlords to follow when evicting tenants. Under an AST, they must ensure that the tenancy has run for at least six months and that the initial contract term has finished. Landlords have a duty to protect deposits in a suitable holding scheme and to serve the correct notices using Section 21. There are two types of Section 21 Notice and it is important the right one is issued. If the tenancy is still within the contracted fixed term, the S.21 (1)(b) Notice should be served. Where the fixed term has ended and the tenancy has become a periodic agreement, the S.21 (4)(a) Notice is used. Landlords must give at least two months notice before evicting tenants. If the tenant does not vacate within the timescale, a court possession order can be obtained. Following this, if occupants still won’t leave, the landlord can apply again to the court for bailiffs to assist in tenant eviction.
Before going to court it is imperative that protocols have been followed properly. The appropriate notices need to have been served correctly and in a timely manner. According to the Chairman of the London Association of District Judges, a high percentage of eviction notices are being dismissed out of court due to mistakes made in their issue.
Previously, properly served Section 21 Notices have usually proved effective. Wishing to avoid the issue of going to court, tenants nearly always left within the requisite two months. However, it has recently become popular for councils to refuse a Section 21 notice as evidence of tenant eviction. They prefer to wait until the case has been brought to court and a possession order granted before re-homing individuals. As this process can take several weeks or months, it gives councils additional time to relocate tenants. However, it can be financially devastating for landlords, especially if the tenant is not paying rent.
The new Universal Credit system is also causing concern for both landlords and tenants. Previously, benefits were paid to claimants in separate instalments and rent paid directly to landlords, but tenants will now receive one payment, including housing benefit, from which they will need to pay their rent. Only a small percentage of tenants fail to pass rent on to their landlords. However, the new system could potentially see more individuals struggling to manage their finances effectively and the risk of rent arrears will increase. In addition, there is apprehension over proposals to recover arrears by reducing payments to the claimant and paying a percentage directly to the landlord. This could place tenants in an even more vulnerable position and the landlords will only recoup lost rent over very long periods of time and risk further arrears in the future.
It seems inevitable that the long-term result will be more landlords withdrawing from the social-housing sector, with the gap between supply and demand only increasing.
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