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Update – Abandonment

Part 3 of the Housing and Planning Act is expected to come into force in October 2017. However, we are not totally confident of that date and it could be April 2017, hence this post. Section 216 of the Act will permit private landlords in England of properties let under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy to seek possession without a court order where the tenant has abandoned the premises.

Abandoned premises can already be recovered, and many readers will be familiar with the current process but, it is an uncertain process. The new structure provides a clear process which landlords can use with confidence.

Our previous blog on abandoned properties under the Housing and Planning Act (Bill) can be read here.

Accordingly, where Landlords wish to exercise their rights under Part 3 of the 2016 Act they will be permitted to do so where:

  1. there are 8 weeks’, 2 consecutive months’, 3 months’ or 1 quarter’s rent arrears (depending on the tenancy period). This is known as the ‘rent condition’;
  2. the landlord has given the tenant, occupier and deposit payer 2 warning notices and a third notice has been fixed to a conspicuous part of the premises; and
  3. no tenant, occupier or deposit payer has responded in writing to any of the notices.

The warning notices must explain that the landlord believes that the premises have been abandoned; that the tenant, occupier or deposit payer must respond in writing before a specified date (which must be 8 weeks after the first warning notice) if the landlord’s belief is incorrect; and that the landlord proposes to bring the tenancy to an end.

The first warning notice may be given prior to the rent condition being met. The second warning notice must be given at least 2 weeks, and no more than 4 weeks after the first warning notice and at a time when the rent condition is met. Both the first and second warning notices may be given by personal service; alternatively, by being left at or sent to the premises, every other UK address given by the tenant, occupier or deposit payer to the landlord as a service address, and every UK address of any tenant’s guarantor.

Finally, the third warning notice must be fixed to a conspicuous part of the premises at least 5 days before the specified date on which the landlord sought a response. There is no specified form for these notices at present but the legislation does permit the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out the form of the third notice. If such regulations are made, we will of course update this post and these are fairly likely.

Within 6 months of service of the notice terminating the tenancy, the tenant may apply to the court for an order reinstating the tenancy if he has a good reason for having failed to respond to the warning notices. The court will then make any order it thinks fit for the purposes of reinstating the tenancy.

Comment
This process does appear to water down the Housing Act 1988 security of tenure provisions we are all familiar with. This will no doubt be of some concern for tenants.

However, where landlords are confident that the tenant or occupier has abandoned the premises this process may ensure that they recover possession without delay and additional costs. Landlords should of course ensure that they follow the process to the letter because of the court’s power of reinstatement following a tenant’s application.

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