UPDATE 27/09/2015: Landlords in England will no longer be able to serve a section 21 at the beginning of a tenancy if the tenancy started on or after October 2015, they will now need to wait 4 months into the tenancy. For more details, please go to the main Section 21 blog post.
These new changes do NOT apply to tenancies in Wales (regardless of when the tenancy started) or tenancies in England that started before October 2015, so the below will still be applicable. Now, back to the original blog post…
Unfortunately, I learned this particular lesson the hard way. It was one of those God awful scenarios where the only mildly positive takeaway was a “lesson well learned”, everything else about it was utter bullshit. If I hadn’t learned a lesson, I probably would have killed myself (or most likely my tenant).
After losing a few months rent and sprouting a few grey hairs on my nuts, I learned a valuable lesson, which is to strongly consider serving a section 21 notice at the beginning of tenancy…
How I learned my lesson…
A few years ago (yeah, sorry, bit late telling this story), I had a ghastly little tenant that signed a 6 month tenancy agreement. For the first 4 months everything was cool; she paid rent on time and I didn’t hear so much as a peep out of her cake-hole (just how I like it).
Destined to be struck down by the almighty Lord, my tenant had for some mysterious reason transformed into a clumsy, slow-witted, non-commutative, non-paying buffoon during the 4th and 5th month, which resulted in significant rent arrears! She essentially went radio silent on me the same day she stopped paying rent. Perfect.
On the 6th month, the tenancy was due to expire, and ideally I would like her stupid arse out by then.
However, due to my
stupidity naivety, I didn’t serve a section 21 (notice of possession) two months prior to the end date of the termination period stipulated in the Tenancy Agreement (key-point: because I didn’t anticipate she would fall into arrears), consequently my tenant had a legal right to remain in the property and allow the tenancy to roll into a periodic tenancy until I served her with a valid possession notice (what a jacked up law!). My other option was to serve her with a Section 8 (eviction notice on the grounds of arrears). However, in this particular situation, going down the Section 8 route was more likely going to take longer and be more costly than sticking to my Section 21 guns!
Section 21 it was then.
I’m pretty sure my tenant knew what she was doing; she knew how to take advantage of the broken system; she knew landlords are legally required to give tenants a minimum of 2 months notice to vacate; she knew the “termination date” in the tenancy agreement is NOT a valid notice of possession (surprisingly, most landlords/tenants aren’t aware of that).
On a side note, an alternative method of legally terminating a tenancy without serving a possession notice is for both parties to surrender the tenancy. But obviously that wouldn’t be in her best interest because:
- she knew she could live in my property for an extra 2 months while rent-dodging
- she couldn’t afford to move out
- the chances of her being forced to pay the arrears through the legal system at any decent rate were extremely slim
- she knew I couldn’t legally enter the property and throw her corpse onto the streets
- she’s an inconsiderate blood-sucking donkey, and a reasonable gesture like surrendering tenancy would go against her tainted medieval gene pool.
Hell, if I was her, I would have also stayed in the property.
Right, lesson learned, from now on, serving a Section 21 at the beginning of a tenancy is a serious possibility!
Section 21 notices can be legally served as soon as a tenancy begins as long as the security deposit legislation is properly complied with. Another point to mention is that I’ve heard that courts have been known to dislike Section 21 notices being served at the beginning of a tenancy unless the tenant is made aware of the end of tenancy before entering into a new tenancy. So ALWAYS make it clear!
If I had followed the correct procedure and served the Section 21 ASAP, I would have been able to repossess the property on the end date of the tenancy, and I would have been out of pocket by only one month’s rent, as opposed to three. Ouch!
What’s that appropriate and terribly annoying expression? Oh yeah, hindsight is 20/20!
Why serve a section 21 at the beginning of a tenancy
- First and foremost, it ensures that aspiring rogue tenants are legally vacated from the property as quickly as possible.
- Even if the possession notice is served at the beginning of the tenancy, the tenant doesn’t have to vacate the property if both landlord and tenant are happy to continue the tenancy. Serving the notice at the beginning is just to safeguard against unforeseen rogue tenants and minimise damage. Fact is, landlords will NEVER know what their tenants will be like, no matter how presentable they look on paper and during their viewings.
- If a tenant doesn’t vacate the property after serving a valid section 21 notice, the court will (in most cases) give immediate possession to the landlord, no messing around.
- If a Section 21 is served at the beginning of a tenancy (after the deposit is secured), it can come across as more of a formality (as long as the tenant is tactfully explained its purpose). But if it’s sent it in the middle of a tenancy, the chances are, the tenant will take offence to it, and see it as an eviction notice.
So my recommendation, strongly consider starting all new tenancies with a 6 month period and serve a Section 21 notice at the beginning of every tenancy, especially if you’re feeling nervous about your new tenants. Just to clarify, I don’t think this practise should be considered as a rule of thumb or an absolute, but rather, something to consider. Every situation is different, so you should weigh up your own unique circumstances before making any decisions.
Comments, thoughts, further advice/tips? All welcome…
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.