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A Welcome Approach to S 21 Notices!

Posted by on March 1, 2015

Interestingly enough, the decision in the case of Spencer v Taylor [2013] EWCA Civ1600 falls in favour of landlords and managing agents (for once!), as opposed to adding further complications to the already exceedingly complex web of rules and catches, also known as landlord & tenancy law!

The decision, upheld by the Supreme Court, applies to assured shorthold tenancies that have become statutory periodic tenancies subsequent to the end of a fixed term. Under these tenancies, there is now no longer a requirement for a section 21(4)(a) notice to be served or for a date of expiry at the end of a period of tenancy to be included! In other words, a simple section 21(1)(b) notice giving the tenant/s two months’ notice will suffice in terminating the tenancy.

For those of you who want to know how and why this long-overdue decision has finally graced us with its presence, here’s a little more detail:

The facts of the case itself are rather straightforward; on 6th February 2006, an assured shorthold tenancy agreement was entered into by the landlord and tenant for a fixed term of 6 months, with rent payable on a weekly basis. At the end of the 6 months, astatutory period tenancy arose. A few years later, the landlord served the tenant with a notice seeking possession of the property and the tenant argued that the notice was invalid as it did not expire on the last day of the rental periodas required under s 21(4)(a).

In giving his judgment, Lewison LJ analysed the wording of the legislation under s 21(2) Housing Act 1988:

(2) A notice under paragraph (b) of sub‑section (1) above may be given before or on the day on which the tenancy comes to an end and that sub‑section shall have effect notwithstanding that on the coming to an end of the fixed term tenancy a statutory periodic tenancy arises.

His Lordship decided that the use of the word ‘may’ as opposed to ‘must’ indicated that the provision was merely suggestive; he decided that there was no provision under s 21(1) stating that giving two months’ notice is only permissible under a fixed term tenancy OR that it cannot be given during a statutory periodic tenancy. On that basis, he deemed the notice to be valid and dismissed the tenant’s appeal.

The best bit? Gone are the days of landlords and managing agents having to work out tenancy periods and the correct date of expiry for a valid s 21(4)(a) notice! Well, unless of course there was no fixed term to begin with or the periodic tenancy is contractual, or worse, the Supreme Court decides to reconsider the matter in the future. But for now, we throw away our pencils and calendars and welcome Spencer v Taylor with open arms!

Yalini Murukathas, LL.B (Hons) LL.M

Advocate with Ashley Taylors Legal

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