The COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for private landlords to evict tenants, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot evict tenants who breach the terms of the tenancy or engage in illegal activities
On 25 March 2020, the UK government published the Coronavirus Act 2020. Among the many provisions stated in the Act, there are two measures concerning landlords and affecting the private rented sector. One of which is that residential tenancies in England and Wales are protected from eviction, while the other one states that business tenancies in England and Wales are protected from forfeiture.
Since then, the government has introduced changes to the Act (which we will cover later in this article), but the crucial point remains – as a landlord, you must be able to end a tenancy, especially if the tenant is breaching their contract and you have evidence to support the breach.
In addition, you know that prevention is better than cure, so if you are getting new tenants during this period, you need to verify that the tenants are really who they say they are. It is always important to remain vigilant and reduce the risk of problematic tenants upfront. Thankfully, our investigations team is here to assist commercial and residential landlords.
Serving Section 8 notice of seeking possession
From 29 August 2020, changes to the Coronavirus Act, pertaining to tenancy provisions, were introduced. Here is a summary:
- To give your tenants notice using a Section 8 notice, you must use Tenancy form 3: notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy, which you must specify on the notice which terms of the tenancy they have breached.
- The notice period must be 2 weeks to 6 months if you give your tenant notice on or after 29 August 2020 (in England) – the length of the notice period required depends on the specific ground(s) you use. We will explain the different grounds below.
- In Wales, the notice period must be 2 weeks to 6 months if you give your tenant notice on or after 24 July – again, the length of time required depends on the specific ground(s) you use.
From 29 August 2020, the modified minimum notice period (for each specific ground) under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 is as follows:
- Ground 1: Landlord wants to move in (6 months)
- Ground 2: Mortgage repossession (6 months)
- Ground 3: Out of season holiday let (6 months)
- Ground 4: Let to student by an educational institution (6 months)
- Ground 5: Property required for use by minister of religion (6 months)
- Ground 6: Demolition or redevelopment (6 months)
- Ground 7: Death of tenant (3 months)
- Ground 7a: Serious anti-social behaviour (4 weeks for periodic tenancy or 1 month for fixed-term tenancy)
- Ground 7b: No right to rent in the UK (3 months)
- Ground 8: Serious rent arrears at time of service of notice and possession proceedings (4 weeks when rent arrears total more than 6 months at the date of service and no other grounds are being relied upon; or 6 months if the rent arrears are less than 6 months at the date of service)
- Ground 9: Alternative accommodation available (6 months)
- Ground 10: Some rent arrears at the time of service of notice and possession proceedings (see Ground 8)
- Ground 11: Persistent late payment of rent (see Ground 8)
- Ground 12: Breach of tenancy agreement (6 months)
- Ground 13: Tenant deteriorated property (6 months)
- Ground 14: Nuisance/annoyance, illegal/immoral use of property (none, proceedings may be commenced immediately after service of notice)
- Ground 14A: Domestic abuse, this applies to social tenancies only and where victim has permanently left the property (2 weeks)
- Ground 14ZA: Rioting (2 weeks)
- Ground 15: Tenant has deteriorated furniture (6 months)
- Ground 16: Employment (6 months)
- Ground 17: False statement (2 weeks)
Gathering evidence under Section 8
Before granting possession, judges will consider several factors, such as the seriousness of the fault, whether it threatens the landlord’s ownership of the property, the impact of eviction on the tenant and the public interest to neighbours of evicting the tenant. Without a doubt, judges must be satisfied with the evidence and the circumstances, before granting possession.
Given how challenging it is for landlords to establish if possession is warranted, if you intend to seek possession under Section 8, you should always look to include a mandatory ground (grounds 1 to 8 above) and have irrefutable evidence where possible.
Call our investigations team at Blackhawk Intelligence on +44 (0)20 8108 9317 if you need assistance to build up a case.
Gathering evidence of anti-social behaviour
According to the MET Police, there are three main categories for anti-social behaviour, depending on how many people are affected:
- Personal anti-social behaviour is when a person targets a specific individual or group.
- Nuisance anti-social behaviour is when a person causes trouble, annoyance or suffering to a community.
- Environmental anti-social behaviour is when a person’s actions affect the wider environment, such as public spaces or buildings.
Despite the law, some landlords believe that it is difficult to prove, especially if they are not there 24×7 to monitor. In reality, many landlords have successfully obtained the right evidence by taking statements from witnesses, using CCTVs, using noise monitoring equipment, making reports to the police, and keeping a diary of disturbances – often with professional help from our investigations team.
Regular site visits
Routine site visits and inspections, carried out by our investigations team, benefit both landlords and tenants, as it allows us to spot any issues before they become serious. These issues can be far-reaching, covering anything from building conditions to illegal activities.
During this Coronavirus pandemic, our team follows public health advice diligently when performing a routine inspection.
Tenant and guarantor background checks
Conducting tenant and/or guarantor background checks can save landlords time, money and many problems later, as this due diligence process helps to minimise the risk of renting to high-risk tenants; it also removes fake (non-exist) guarantors, and reduces the risk of rental income loss.
At Blackhawk Intelligence, our Background Checks team has years of experience in helping private and commercial landlords. We are here to help landlords verify a tenant’s renting history, financial background, along with any criminal convictions they may have.
It must be said that false or fraudulent tenant references are increasingly common, especially after the Tenant Fees Act 2019 which prevents agents or landlords from charging tenants the cost of a reference check. We have come across tenants who provided fake employment history, fake renting history, even fake essential documents like a passport.
If you are a landlord and you want to protect your rental investments, give us a call today on +44 (0)20 8108 9317.
Delivering or witnessing a Section 8 notice
If you’re considering serving a Section 8 notice, you should avoid sending it by email. Instead, our agents can help to deliver it by hand in an envelope, recording the process so you have solid evidence. When delivering the notice through the letterbox (which is considered served on the next working day), we can be your delivery person or your witness – with photographs or a video documenting the process.
Every bit that we do can help you to build a case, especially if you are making an application to the court for a possession hearing. So don’t delay when you need help, our team is always here to assist.
Call Blackhawk Intelligence on +44 (0)20 8108 9317.