Proposition to Change Notice Periods for Periodic Tenancies

February 7, 2022

On 7th January 2022, Senator Mezéc lodged a proposition (the “Proposition”) with the States Greffe requesting that the Minister for Housing and Communities (the “Minister”) issue an order pursuant to powers provided under the Residential Tenancy (Jersey) Law 2011 (the “2011 Law”) to change the statutory minimum notice periods which must be given to tenants who occupy properties on the basis of a periodic tenancy. Senator Mezéc has proposed the introduction a sliding scale of notice periods which are tied to the length of time that a tenant has occupied the property; the longer the period of occupation, the longer the period of notice required.

What is a periodic tenancy?

A periodic tenancy is basically a tenancy where there no ‘end date’ specified in the residential tenancy agreement. Under a periodic tenancy, a tenant occupies a property on the basis of a recurring period of time. The period is usually defined by the interval between rental payments. Typically a periodic tenancy will operate on a monthly basis until such time as either the landlord or tenant gives notice of their intention to end the tenancy.

Current notice periods

At present, the 2011 Law provides that a landlord must give a tenant not less than 3 months’ notice of their intention to terminate a periodic tenancy. That notice must be in writing, signed by, or on behalf of, the landlord and be served on the tenant not less than 3 months prior to the date on which it is to take effect. Where a tenant wishes to terminate a periodic tenancy, they are required to follow the same formalities, albeit the minimum notice period is 1 month. It is of course open to the parties to agree to longer notice periods, although this seldom happens in practice.

The Proposed Changes

It is proposed that notice periods be linked to length of time that the tenant has occupied a property such that the period of notice that a landlord is required to give increases with the length of the tenant’s period of occupation, subject to a maximum cap. By way of example, the Proposition sets out the statutory minimum notice periods which have to be observed in the Republic of Ireland under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (the “2004 Act”), which are as follows:

Duration of tenancy                                                      Notice period 

Less than 6 months                                                        28 days

Not less than 6 months but less than one year             90 days

Not less than 1 year but less than 3 years                     120 days

Not less than 3 years but less than 7 years                   180 days

Not less than 7 years but less than 8 years                   196 days

Not less than 8 years                                                      224 days

The Rationale for the Proposition

Senator Mezéc asserts that the current minimum notice periods provide little certainty to those who occupy properties subject to a periodic tenancy. That, he says, is all the more so in circumstances where a tenant has lived in a property for many years and has become settled in a way of life based on what that property and its location offers. In particular, he points to the unsettling effect that an unforeseen move can have on the development of children and the fact that it may not always be possible for provisions as to schooling and other childcare commitments to be changed within the 3 month notice period currently provide by the 2011 Law.

Is it a good idea?

There is, of course, a fine balancing act to be struck between the rights of landlords and tenants. On the one hand, a landlord should not be unduly constrained from dealing with a property as they wish. On the other, it is right to ensure that adequate protections are imposed by the legislature to ensure that tenants are not unreasonably dispossessed of their home at the caprice of their landlord. The key question for the States of Jersey is whether the sliding scale approach advocated by Senator Mezéc strikes that balance.

Whilst the current system imposes a “one size fits all approach” regardless of length of tenure, the utilitarian nature of that system is mitigated by the fact that the Court has a discretionary power to impose a stay of any eviction order granted after considering the particular facts of the case. As a matter of practice, the Court almost invariably grants a stay of execution in order to allow a tenant sufficient time – within reason – to find suitable alternative accommodation. In cases where a tenant has children or other dependents, the Court will usually grant a generous stay in order to mitigate any hardship which arises as a result of their eviction. It is certainly arguable that the current system remains fit for purpose.

It should also be noted that the notice periods provided under the 2004 Act provide shorter notice periods than those which are currently provided under the 2011 Law for tenants who occupy a property for less than 1 year. As such, the wholesale adoption of the notice periods under the 2004 Act will provide less protection than is currently afforded to such tenants. The changes proposed by Senator Mezéc are less likely to have a significant impact upon institutional landlords who have a portfolio comprised of a number of rental properties, that however, is not necessarily the case for landlords who own a single investment property and who may need to sell that property at relatively short notice in order to meet unforeseen financial obligations.

The Proposition is due to be debated in the States on 8th February 2022 and we shall provide further updates as to its progression through the legislative process as they arise.

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