The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 has been in force for many years and currently the only way a landlord can lawfully bring a tenancy to an end is by a Court Order, with of course the Bailiff securing the premises on the landlord’s behalf. However a tenant can of course surrender with the agreement of the landlord, give up possession at the end of the term, or as is often the case just disappear leaving the premises unoccupied.

The problem for the landlord if the tenant just disappears is of course what do they do? Landlords rely upon the rental payments for their income, both to discharge their expenses and to provide income for themselves. Under the present law if a tenant has abandoned a residential property which has been let by a landlord, it is necessary for a landlord to issue proceedings for a possession order in the County Court and for that possession order to be enforced by a bailiff, to be certain that the tenant does not have any recourse. This can be both costly in time and money.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 has received Royal assent in May 2016 and seeks to introduce a procedure for a landlord to recover possession of a property which it believes has been abandoned without the time and expense of Court proceedings. There is currently no date when it will be implemented. However it proposes a radical change to the way tenancies have been determined over the last 40 years. This is applicable only in England.

The question is how successful is this going to be? As with all primary legislation the detailed working on a day to day level is going to be left to secondary rules,  that is statutory instrument containing the detailed procedure as to how this will work in practice. In principle it seems fair to the landlord and seeks to redress the balance, which many landlords feel has gone too far in favour of tenants. It appears that there will be a requirement to serve warning notices, but if the tenant does not respond then the landlord can take possession without a court order. However there will be a procedure whereby a tenant can be reinstated if they had good reason for failing to reply. This seems to be up to six months of the end of the tenancy.

From the case law which has reported in the past this does not seem to be attractive to a landlord. Yes, you avoid the issue fee in court proceedings which has increased so substantially over the last few years, but a landlord could then be faced with restoring a tenant to accommodation which he or she has relet to another tenant, Whilst there is the requirement of good reason, that is going to be subject to judicial interpretation, which is uncertain. The question is therefore raised, does this redress the balance at all?

From a risk perspective, other than in the most clear cut cases (and how many of them are there in law) , this does not seem the most attractive proposition, and court proceedings would seem the best way forward

Here at LFL we can advise on your options and advise you of the most beneficial option for you. Until this is brought into force we can of course advise you as to the procedure to lawfully bring the tenancy to an end. Whilst this may appear to be an attractive option when it is operative, what it does not do is remove risk for the landlord, and unless there is certainty, whilst there may be savings in the short term, this could lead to substantial expense in the longer term.

Alison Jones