Time Limits For Serving And Using A Section 21

On 1 October 2015, section 36 of the Deregulation Act 2015 began in England.

Section 21 Housing Act 1988 is amended substantially and will drastically affect when landlords can serve a section 21 notice and begin court proceedings. There is a use it or lose it rule introduced. Further, the giving of a section 21 notice early into the tenancy (including the day of signing a tenancy) will be outlawed in England.

When can section 21 be served?

Concerning a tenancy granted on or after 1 October 2015 (see below), no section 21 notice concerning a dwelling-house in England will be able to be served within the first four months of the tenancy. Suppose the tenancy is a replacement tenancy (a renewal between the same landlord and tenant for substantially the same premises). In that case, the section 21 notice will not be able to be served within the first four months of the original tenancy. This does not apply where a statutory periodic tenancy has arisen at the end of the fixed term. 

This has the effect that it is possible to reduce the four-month limit by giving a shorter fixed term. For example, you could provide a one-month fixed term (on or after 1 October 2015), and once the tenancy has gone 'statutory periodic', you could then serve a section 21 notice. However, the rule that a court cannot order possession until at least six months has elapsed since the original tenancy remains, so it's unclear what significant gain there would be. 

Members should remember that the Guild tenancies do not go statutory periodic at the end of the term so they couldn't be used for this purpose without alteration.

When must section 21 be enforced (use it or lose it)?

Where the section 21 notice was required to be two months, court proceedings for possession may not be begun after the end of six months from the date on which the notice was given. If the notice was required to be greater than two months under 21(4)(b) (where the rent is quarterly or six monthly, for example), proceedings for possession must not be begun after the end of four months from the date given in the notice for expiry (the date possession is required under the notice).

Effective Dates

Subject to the next paragraph, none of the rules discussed in this article apply to an assured shorthold tenancy granted before 1 October 2015 nor to any statutory periodic tenancy arising on or after 1 October 2015 where the original tenancy was granted before 1 October 2015. 

From 1 October 2018, the rules discussed in this article will apply to ALL assured shorthold tenancies in England, including any granted before 1 October 2015 (or went statutory periodic).

View Related Handbook Page

Landlord Wants Tenant to Leave

A tenancy of someone's home, starting on or after 28 February 1997, will in most cases be an assured shorthold tenancy. Take advice early if there are any doubts about what type of tenancy is being terminated. The procedures for ending a tenancy are different, depending on the type of tenancy.