UPDATE 27/09/2015: As of October 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).
You know, I have no idea why people like learning through their own mistakes; I’d rather learn through others. Alas, that didn’t happen in this scenario, so perhaps you can learn from my mistake.
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 hunky Dory; 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 Lord, my tenant had transformed into a clumsy, slow-witted, non-paying buffoon during the 4th and 5th month, consequently I was left out of pocket.
On the 6th month, the tenancy was due to expire, and ideally I would have wanted her stupid arse out of my crib 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 can be both more time-consuming, complicated and expensive than sticking to my Section 21 guns!
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 sidenote, an alternative method of legally terminating a tenancy without serving a possession notice is for both parties to surrender the tenancy. Obviously that wouldn’t be in her best interest because 1) she knew she could live in my property for an extra 2 months while rent-dodging 2) she couldn’t afford to move out 3) the chances of her being forced to pay the arrears through the legal system at any decent rate were extremely slim 4) she knew I couldn’t legally enter the property and throw her corpse onto the streets 5) she’s an inconsiderate blood-sucking slosher, 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.
The lesson learned!
Section 21 notices can be legally served as soon as a tenancy begins as long as the security deposit is secured into a tenancy deposit scheme and with the tenant prescribed with all the relevant information relating to the deposit protection; so approximately 7-14 days after the tenancy begins. 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!
Had I of 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.
For example, if I create a 6 month tenancy today (the 3rd July 2012), I can serve a Section 21 with it, which states that I require possession of the property on 3rd January (the tenancy end date). All the tenant needs is a minimum of 2 months notice; so actually, I could serve it at any time before the 3rd November 2012, because that would still give the tenant 2 months notice before the end date. However, it’s easier to serve it at the beginning of each tenancy, and it gives better protection to landlords if the tenant falls into arrears during the 5th month of a 6th month tenancy. If that happens, and a section 21 is served at the beginning of a tenancy, the tenant is legally obligated to vacate the property at the end date agreed upon in the tenancy agreement. However, if a section 21 isn’t served until the 5th month (the month where the tenant fell into arrears), the tenant will be allowed to legally remain in the property until a valid possession notice is served, with a minimum of 2 months notice, which effectively gives the tenant an opportunity to live in the property for 3 months without paying rent. It’s a ‘orrible, ‘orrible system!
I think I’m just waffling now, but I hope it that all makes sense!
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
- It’s all about the landlord’s protection. 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 want the tenancy to continue. It’s there to safeguard against unforeseen rogue tenants and minimise damage. Fact is, you’ll NEVER know what your tenants will be like, no matter how presentable they look on paper and during their viewings
- You won’t have to remember to serve it during a tenancy
- 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
- Serving a section 21 at the beginning of a tenancy doesn’t just benefit landlords that have tenants breaching the T&C’s, but it also helps vacate tenants that landlords simply don’t like. Some times, for no real reason, we just don’t get on with people, and we’d rather get them out of our lives ASAP.
- If you serve a Section 21 at the beginning of a tenancy (after the deposit is secured), it can come across as more of a formality (as long as you explain why it’s being served). But if you send it in the middle of a tenancy, the chances are, the tenant will take offence to it, and render it as an “eviction notice”.
So my advise, start all new tenancies with a 6 month period and serve a Section 21 notice at the beginning of every tenancy.
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.