The Housing and Planning Act 2016 completed its passage through Parliament and became law in May 2016. Despite more than three years having since passed however, there are still certain Parts of the Act which are yet to come into force.
One such Part is that of Part 3, which sets out a new repossession route where a landlord believes that their property has been abandoned by the tenant.
The purpose behind the new statutory provisions is straight-forward in its intention – it is designed to enable landlords to repossess properties without the need for a Court Order, as well as avoiding the usual delays and expense associated with court proceedings.
Whilst attractive on its face however, landlords should take time to familiarise themselves with the new, notice-laden procedure which is to be complied with should repossession be sought on this basis.
A landlord must ensure the following facts are present:
1) That the rent has remained unpaid for at least 8 consecutive weeks (if payable weekly or fortnightly), 2 consecutive months (if payable monthly), 1 quarter (if payable quarterly) or 3 months’ rent outstanding for at least 3 months (if payable yearly);
2) That they have served the required three warning notices. Whilst the landlord does not have to wait for the rent arrears to reach the required threshold by the time the first notice has been served, they do have to do so when the second and third notices are served;
3) Ensure that the second notice is served between 2-4 weeks after the first notice, with the third notice being served at least 5 days before the deadline for the tenant to respond to the notice (such deadline contained within the second notice). The third notice itself must also be fixed “to some conspicuous part of the premises to which the tenancy relates” – more often than not, the front door;
4) If there is no response to the three warning notices, nor any payments made towards the rent arrears, the landlord must then serve the final notice in accordance with Section 57 of the Act. Upon a notice being given, the tenancy shall come to an end on the day on which the Section 57 notice is given.
Even where a landlord has followed the correct process they must still exercise caution. Section 60 of the Act makes it clear a tenant will have the right to apply for reinstatement of the tenancy (provided they are able to give good reason for their failure to respond to the earlier notices), with this right remaining for a period of 6 months from the date the Section 57 notice was served.
As stated above, this repossession route is yet to come into force, with no concrete date having yet been set down by Parliament as to when this is likely to occur.