Invalid eviction notices are causing delays throughout the possession process, which is costing landlords thousands of pounds in fees and lost rent, according to a leading law firm.
Danielle Hughes, of Kirwans, has witnessed an increased number of landlord clients facing delays – of over two months in some cases – and consequent rental losses, as invalid eviction notices are brought to the fore and new ones issued.
Of the cases that Hughes has seen over the past three months, 70% have been delayed by problematic notices, creating a huge amount of stress for landlords.
With 34,008 landlord possession claims recorded by the Ministry of Justice in the second quarter of the year, the issue could affect a large number of landlords each year.
Hughes explains: “The legal changes that have taken place in this area over the past 12 months have been fast-paced and complicated, and many landlords are finding that the notices that have been prepared for them by well-meaning letting agents are out of date as a result.
“When trying to evict someone, landlords have to follow a strict process, which sees them serve notice on the tenant, then issue a claim for possession in the county court, then request a warrant for possession, and make an eviction appointment.
“Many landlords don’t seek legal advice until they try and move onto stage two of the eviction process, when the claim for possession is issued.”
We have advice for landlords on correctly issuing section 21 notices: https://landlordnews.co.uk/legal-expert-offers-advice-landlords-section-21-notices/
Hughes points out that the first task for a solicitor in preparing a claim for possession is to review the notice that has been served at stage one to check its validity – and that is when the errors and risks become apparent.
She says: “Time and time again, we are seeing defective notices. The impact of this on the landlord can be devastating, both in terms of emotions, costs and delays, particularly in situations where the tenant is no longer paying rent.
“If, for example, a section 21 notice is invalid, this means a minimum two-month delay, which in real terms can lead to an additional £1,000 of loss for the landlord, if rent of £500 per calendar month is going unpaid.
“The defects can arise even where the notice has been prepared and served by a letting agent. While many letting agents undergo legal training and are competent at drafting notices, unfortunately, this is not always the case.”
The eviction process is a lengthy one, with the minimum court fees involved recently rising from £390 to £476. As solicitors’ costs are charged on top of this, landlords are looking to save by either producing DIY eviction notices, or asking their letting agent to create a notice on their behalf.
Landlords must remember that there are ways to protect your income throughout this process, in the form of Rent Guarantee and Legal Expenses Cover. The Just Landlords policy will cover loss of rent or legal expenses up to £50,000 if you seek to evict your tenant due to rent arrears.
Hughes explains the different types of forms: “There are currently three different forms for section 21 notices, which apply to different types of Assured Shorthold Tenancies. A new form is used for tenancies commenced on or after October 1st 2015 and another has strict rules on expiry dates for the notice period. Therefore, it’s not always as easy as it seems to get the notice right.
“We have dealt with situations where, for example, the date contained within the notice was calculated incorrectly. If this happens and a claim is issued at court, the judge has a number of options, which include delaying the case until such time that a valid notice has been served, entailing at least a two-month delay.”
She continues: “Judges can be extremely pedantic on these points; even if it is just one day out, the notice can be held to be invalid. It is also perfectly within the court’s powers to strike out the case altogether. This would mean not only having to re-serve a new section 21 notice, resulting in a two-month delay, but also having to then pay two sets of court issue fees, at £355 each – a total of £710 – and even facing an order to pay the tenant’s legal fees.
“Incurring initial legal costs for having the notice drawn up professionally may, therefore, save landlords time and money in the long-run.”
Landlords, always remember to serve the correct notice and protect your rental income throughout the eviction process to avoid losing out on thousands of pounds!