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Lawbite: Unlicensed landlords barred from serving termination notice (Wales)

  • United Kingdom
  • Litigation and dispute management
  • Real estate
  • Real estate litigation - LawBite

29-07-2020

Jarvis v Evans [2020] EWCA Civ 854

The Court of Appeal recently confirmed that unlicensed landlords of properties subject to assured shorthold tenancies (“ASTs”) in Wales are not entitled to serve termination notices under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (“the 1988 Act”).

Landlords in England and Wales can terminate ASTs by serving either a section 8 notice (specifying grounds for possession) or section 21 notice (no grounds required) under the 1988 Act.

In Wales, the provisions of The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 (the “2014 Act”) also come to play where properties are let under ASTs.  The 2014 Act sets out the registering and licensing regime for landlords of private housing in Wales. Under Section 7 of the 2014 Act landlords who are not licensed/do not have an authorised agent acting on its behalf must not serve a notice to terminate a tenancy captured by the 2014 Act. Section 44 further expressly provides that a section 21 notice cannot be served where a landlord is not registered and licenced/ has an authorised agent acting on its behalf.

In October 2018, Mr Jarvis served a section 8 notice on Mr and Mrs Evans to seek possession of a property let under an AST on the grounds of non-payment of rent and thereafter issued possession proceedings.

At the first County Court hearing the court granted the possession order.  On appeal a new point was raised as to the validity of the notice given that Mr Jarvis was not himself registered or licensed when it was served.   At this hearing the Judge held that for those reasons Mr Jarvis was not entitled to serve the notice and concluded that the notice was therefore ineffective.

Mr Jarvis appealed and asserted that:

1.    a section 8 notice did not “terminate a tenancy” (it was a preliminary step to an application to the Court for a possession order) and did not fall within section 7 of the 2014 Act
2.    the 2014 Act expressly prohibits unlicensed landlords from serving section 21 notices only and there was no equivalent provision relating to section 8 notices.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and held that:

  • the language used in the 2014 Act was wide enough to encompass notices which are served in order to bring tenancies to an end but which do not achieve that of themselves
  • the express prohibition of service of a section 21 notice by an unlicensed landlord was best seen as a belt-and-braces and it should not be inferred that other notices (including section 8 notices) served in breach of section 7 of the 2014 Act were intended to be effective
  • an unlicensed landlord can avoid the prohibition in section 7 of the 2014 Act by instructing a properly licensed agent or a solicitor to serve a section 8 notice on its behalf 

Key points

  • There has been a divergence over recent years between the rules governing private rented housing law in Wales and England but this is the first time Welsh primary legislation in this sphere has reached the Appellate Courts
  • Landlords in Wales need to ensure that they are familiar with the different rules and procedures that apply, and the consequences of non-compliance