James specialises in dispute resolution and has much experience of dealing with issues between landlords and tenants. Here he looks at how a landlord can obtain possession of their residential property.
Obtaining possession of a residential property from a tenant can take months.
If the landlord makes the slightest error in the documentation given to the tenant, in the notice or in relation to the deposit, the landlord may not get possession at all.
Landlords often say to us that they feel that the law is very tenant-friendly, but prior to the introduction of assured shorthold tenancies in the 1990s it was significantly more difficult for landlords to obtain possession from tenants, so in that respect the law could be considered to be landlord-friendly.
Generally, landlords can recover possession of their let property at the end of a fixed term tenancy agreement by serving a notice requiring possession pursuant to S.21 Housing Act 1988, known as a S.21 notice.
Usually the S.21 notice requires the tenant to vacate two months after it is served.
However, the landlord has to jump over numerous legal hurdles in order to be able to serve a valid S.21 notice to ensure they are complying with the law and that tenants’ rights are protected.
It’s well reported that there are rogue landlords that treat tenants appallingly – in our experience though this is a very small minority.
In most cases where landlords haven’t fulfilled all of their obligations it is due to ignorance of the law rather than deliberate acts, although the consequences (being unable to serve a valid S.21 notice) are generally the same.
Landlords are unable to serve valid S.21 notices in the following circumstances:
1. If they have not complied with the law relating to tenants’ deposits.
2. If they have failed to provide the tenant with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate, Energy Performance Certificate, ‘How to Rent’ booklet.
3. If less than 6 months has passed since receipt of an Improvement Notice or an Emergency Remedial Action Notice from the local authority.
4. If less than 4 months has passed since the commencement of the tenancy agreement.
Whilst there are other requirements, generally if the landlord has complied they can serve a valid notice.