In early June, a story went out about Southampton striker, Lee Barnard, serving an illegal 14-day notice on 11 tenants after he and his partner, model Tonya French, bought a 14-bedroom townhouse in Chelmsford. Once the council stepped in to inform Barnard the notices were illegal, Barnard stated the notices were in error and had mistakenly listed the wrong date. He credited the mistake to the former owner, who allegedly informed him he only needed to give a one-day notice.

The story is illustrative of the general lack of awareness about the proper procedures for noticing and evicting tenants. Even when a property is sold, tenants are protected from illegal eviction. Mr Barnard, unaware of the rules, has further delayed possession of his new home by not following procedure.

A tenant has not less than 60 days, upon notice, to vacate. If a landlord follows the proper procedures and includes the correct language required under the rules, the notice is valid. If the tenant vacates, the landlord can recover his property with no further action required. If the tenant holds over or, as in Barnard’s case, the tenant receives Housing Benefit, a landlord has to institute eviction proceedings through the courts. Councils often require a formal eviction before they will re-house tenants in other accommodations.

If the tenancy’s fixed term has expired or will expire within the notice period, the landlord can serve a section 21 notice. However, a fixed term can only be terminated prior to the end of a fixed term by serving a section 8 notice, which requires cause and a formal hearing.

In Barnard’s situation, the previous owner could have instituted procedures to vacate the property prior to possession, provided the term of the tenancy agreement was due to expire. Had the footballer known the rules, he could have come to a proper agreement before buying the home. Instead, he is paying a mortgage in a home he can’t occupy immediately.

John Bishop

Tel. 020 3301 7815

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