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Longer Notice Periods in Wales27th July 2020 Commercial Litigation
Late last week the Welsh government announced a new statutory instrument taking up powers in the Coronavirus Act 2020 to extend the notice periods on landlord’s section 8 and 21 notices. This came into force on 24 July 2020, the day after it was announced.
The original Coronavirus Act provisions extended notice periods on both s8 notices (regardless of grounds relied on) and s21 notices to three months. Obviously this was a little bit academic as proceedings cannot be issued anyway but with the court stay ending on 24 August with a new process in place the expiry of notices becomes of more interest.
The Coronavirus Act always allowed ministers (in England or Wales) to extend the 3 month notice period or to extend the period for which the longer notice periods would be in effect. The Act itself put in place a 3 month notice period ending on 30 September 2020 but it allows for ministers to change the notice period, the end date or both. Wales has changed the notice period but not the end date.
The new Welsh regulations stipulate that a section 8 notice or section 21 notice must now give 6 months notice to a tenant. However, this change does not apply to section 8 notices citing ground 14 (alone or with other grounds) in which case the notice period continues to be 3 months.
This is a bit of a silly change though. While notices now need to be 6 months for many things this longer notice period requirement still ends on 30 September 2020 as it does in England. At that point a landlord could simply issue a fresh notice citing the original shorter notice requirement as set out in the Housing Act 1988. In fact, almost every landlord would be far better off to do this. So unless the Welsh government plans to also alter the 30 September 2020 date as well, which it has not done in these regulations, this change actually does very little other than to give an inaccurate picture to tenants who might be issued with a 6 month notice and think they still have time only to then be issued with a much shorter notice on 30 September. With the court stay ending in Wales, as well as England, on 24 August, any shorter notice issued after 30 September is also capable of being acted on much more promptly than has been the case over the last few months.
The Welsh ministers decided not to consult or allow a short period between announcing these regulations and bringing them into force. This is in breach of their own ministerial code but they have justified this on the basis that there is an urgent need to bring certainty and security to Welsh tenants. For the reasons I have already given above I think this is a rather false justification as any security is limited and largely illusory.