It’s not just the title Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 which is a bit complicated. The Regulations only extended the ban on evictions until 20 September so now, eviction cases can be heard in court again. But the rules on how much notice you are entitled depend on when the notice is served are not simple.
To be clear, if the notice was served
- on or after 29 August 2020, you’re entitled to 6 months notice under most circumstances but not if you have accrued more than six months rent arrears; nor if you have been accused of an act of violence against an intimate partner or family member in the home; nor if you have been accused of some other form of anti-social behaviour
- between 26 March and 28 August 2020, you’re entitled to at least 3 months notice, whatever the grounds
- before 26 March 2020, you have just 2 months notice
But remember that, even if the notice is valid, you do not have to move out on the date mentioned on the notice. The onus is on the landlord to start possession proceedings by applying to the court. After the landlord has made a claim for possession and a hearing date fixed, you should be served with
- a copy of the claim form, with details of the hearing date on it
- the particulars of claim
- a standard form of defence, and
- guidance notes.
If you need to stay longer in your current home for some reason, you can defend the landlord’s claim for possession. To do so, you must fill in the defence form and return it to the Court within 14 days of receiving the claim documents. If you can’t manage this within 14 days, return the completed form as quickly as possible. You should be able to get help with this, from any local agency offering housing advice.
Is the possession notice valid?
Not necessarily. Not if your address should be licensed but is not. Not if you weren’t served with what’s called “the prescribed information” first. If you paid a deposit, you should be given the prescribed information within 30 days of the start of your tenancy.
There is no official form for the prescribed information, it’s the content that matters
- Information about the scheme protecting your deposit money and
- Information about your tenancy
The prescribed information about your tenancy includes confirmation of which items can be deducted from your deposit money. That information should be laid out in a clause in your tenancy agreement. If the tenancy agreement does not include a clause about what can be deducted from your deposit, the landlord is not entitled to make any deduction from the deposit at all. If the prescribed information has not been properly served, a section 21 notice is invalid. The landlord has to meet their legal obligations before they can they can serve a legal section 21 notice.
You should pursue any landlord who fails to protected your deposit within 30 days of the start of your tenancy through the courts. Failure to protect deposit money is a serious breach of the landlord’s responsibility for which you are entitled to damages of between one and three times the total of your deposit.
Property Licence Checker for London
“My new Property Licence Checker is a key part of my work to redress the imbalance of power that currently exists in the London private rented sector” Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London said. “London’s renters deserve to live in safe, secure, comfortable accommodation, whilst councils need the tools to deal with rogue operators.”
The Property Licence Checker is designed to make it easier to find out whether your home needs a licence. If so, the licence checker will direct you to the relevant local authority website, where you can find out whether or not the landlord has actually secured a licence, in accordance with the law. The information is easier to find on some council websites than on others, but that’s for another day.
If your address is not properly licenced, any notice seeking possession under section 21 of Housing Act 1988 is invalid; you could seek a Rent Repayment Order.
As well as informing renters, the Property Licence Checker will also provide information to councils. This information will help their enforcement against landlords who are operating outside the rules. Generally, those landlords who try to avoid their licensing obligations are the same landlords who try to avoid their repair responsibilities. Or who greedily cram too many people into a property, disregarding renters’ health and safety.
It’s good to see the Mayor of London investing in empowering renters through this “check and challenge” work, although actually, the Mayor has no formal powers over the private rented sector. We need stronger regulation laid down in law, by national government, and we are always working to secure that. But we applaud the efforts of the Greater London Authority and those London councils working with them to push up standards in the private rented sector.