One of the most common questions on the Advice Line relates to the service of notices, in particular, the service of the Section 21 notice. The notice is referred to as an “Eviction” notice, which is not correct. The purpose of the Section 21 notice is for the landlord to obtain “Vacant Possession”. There should be no reason (Grounds) attached to this notice; the sole objective here is that the landlord requires the property back empty.
There are two Section 21 notices – Section 21(1) b used during the Fixed Term (Remember B – BEFORE THE END OF THE FIXED TERM) and Section 21 (4) a used for Statutory Periodic Tenancies (Remember A – AFTER THE END OF THE FIXED TERM). The landlord must ensure that the correct notice is used and also that the most up to date version is used.
The statistic relating to Section 21 notices being incorrect when they are submitted to the courts is alarming – 60% of Section 21 notices are wrong. The errors range from mistakes made with dates (this is the number one issue), spelling of tenants’ names, incorrect address, incorrect postcode, and so it goes on. It is important to ensure that the method of service is correct. Section 6.26 of the Civil Procedure Rules provides very clear guidance on the way in which a notice must be served and outlines what is meant by a notice being “Deemed as Served”. It is important that the landlord checks the tenancy agreement because there will be a clause which states how notice will be served on the tenant.
The “Two Month” notice period is also crucial. This window of opportunity is Statutory – for the Fixed Term two clear months notice must be given (at any time during the fixed term) and for Periodic Tenancies again, two clear months notice must be served in line with the “Anniversary Date/COmmencement Date/ Rent Due Date”. If the dates are incorrect the landlord could lose at least two months and remedying the error can be rather costly.
Another point that letting agents and property managers overlook is whether they have been given the authority to serve notice on the landlords’ behalf. This is an omission in many Terms of Business. If the landlord has not given authority for to the agent to sign and serve notices on his behalf, and an error is made, it is unlikely that an insurer will pay out.
Should the tenant fail to vacate once the “end date” has arrived, the landlord must then start Accelerated Possession Proceedings. This process can ONLY take place if a Section 21 notice has been served. Please note – the Section 21 notice is only valid if the deposit monies have been protected & the Prescribed Information served within the set timeline (30 days – Section 184, Localism Act 2011).
So yesterday when the Daily Mail reported that the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge will be soon moving into their country house, I wondered whether the Queen’s representatives had served notice on her tenants. Even though she gave her Royal Assent to the Housing Act 1988, I very much doubt that she paid much attention to Section 21.