Although it does not sound like a big change, the recent clarification by the Court of Appeal in Spencer v Taylor  will make the lives of residential landlords and their agents much easier. Until this decision it was commonly believed that once the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (‘AST’) expired a landlord had to serve notice pursuant to section 21(4)(a) of the Housing Act 1988 to terminate the tenancy, as opposed to serving a section 21(1)(b) notice. The latter is much easier as it gives two months’ notice ending on any day. A section 21(4)(a) notice must give two months’ notice and expire at the end of ‘a period’ of the tenancy. This can cause uncertainty and delay. However, Lord Justice Lewison held that a section 21(1)(b) notice also encompasses cases where a fixed term AST is followed by a periodic tenancy.
If that isn’t enough to make residential landlords feel ‘jolly’, Lord Justice Lewison also confirmed that a section 21(4)(a) notice is valid where it contains both a fixed date and what is known as the ‘saving formula’ (specifying the tenancy will end ‘at the end of your period of tenancy which will end after the expiration of two months from the service upon you of this notice’). Previously the ‘saving formula’ had only been approved where no fixed date had been provided. All in all, a welcome Christmas present for residential landlords!
By Freddie Jackson, Solicitor