The headline news from the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (the ‘Housing and Planning Act’) makes it look as though there is a good new solution to enable residential landlords to get their property back in their control when it has been abandoned.  In practice it contains a number of provisions that serve only to wrap residential landlords and their agents in another layer of red tape.  Residential landlords used to have two choices if a tenant abandoned the property part way through a tenancy: change the locks and risk prosecution under the Protection From Eviction Act 1977 or obtain a court order for possession.  Obtaining a court order in these circumstances feels like an unnecessary cost, but when weighed against a possible criminal conviction it was the only option for a prudent landlord.

In theory under the Housing and Planning Act, landlords now have a third choice: they can serve three sets of warning notices on the tenant, named occupiers and any third party deposit payers over a minimum period of two months to get possession without a court order if –

  1. (for a tenant paying rent monthly) at least two consecutive months’ worth of rent is unpaid as at the date of service of the second warning notice and the date of the final notice terminating the tenancy; and
  2. there is no response to these warning notices from the tenant, named occupier or deposit payer.

then the tenancy will end on the date specified in the final notice.

This third choice is subject to a right for the tenant to challenge the termination of the tenancy by application to the county court at any time within 6 months of the date of the final notice terminating the tenancy so removing its usefulness for most residential landlords.

In a market where tenancies are often granted for a maximum of 12 months, the risk that a tenant may be able to revive an apparently terminated tenancy for up to 6 months after termination and the effect that could have on the landlord’s ability to re-let the property in the meantime may well mean that a court order for possession remains the preferred and safe option.