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GOVERNMENT EXTENDS EVICTION BAN BY FOUR WEEKS AND INTRODUCES SIX-MONTH NOTICE PERIOD

The Government has extended its ban on evictions by four weeks. By this date, no legal evictions would have taken place for six months. The Government also announced that landlords will have to give tenants six months’ notice if they intend to seek possession of their property, except in cases that involve serious issues such as anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse. This extended notice period will apply until at least 31 March 2021.

The Government has also clarified that, from 29 August, “landlords must provide at least 6 months’ notice period prior to seeking possession through the courts in most cases, including  section 21 evictions and rent arrears under 6 months.” 

Exceptions to the six months’ notice include:

  • Cases of anti-social behaviour or where rent arrears have accumulated for six months (now four week’s notice)
  • Cases of domestic abuse or giving false statement (now two to four weeks’ notice)
  • A breach of immigration rules through “Right to Rent” (now three months’ notice)

When possession proceedings resume in September, the courts will “carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts”.

Additionally, there will be several changes to the usual eviction process in place, including requiring claimants who wish to resume proceedings  to “inform the court and defendant in writing of this after the expiry of the stay in a ‘reactivation notice’” and acknowledges that the government expects an “increased volume” in possession proceedings. The temporary amendment will apply in England and Wales until 28 March 2021, although the changes may be reviewed before then. Changes under the temporary amendment include:

  • Claimants will now be required to inform the court and the defendant in writing that they want to resume stayed proceedings after the expiry of the stay.
  • Claimants will also be required to provide any relevant information about the defendant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and their dependants, so the court can consider defendants’ vulnerability, disability, and social security position, and those who are “shielding”.
  • Claimants will also need to, as far as practicable, produce the full arrears history of the defendant in advance rather than at the hearing. 
  • The court will be allowed to fix a date either on or after issue, so that hearings may be appropriately spread out.
  • The court will also be able to suspend the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing, which usually would be not more than eight weeks, again to spread out hearings appropriately to ensure that the court has capacity.

Tenants are still liable for their rent during this time and should pay this as usual. If tenants are facing financial hardship and think they will have difficulty making a rental payment, they should speak to their landlord in the first instance. The government is encouraging tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment plan. However, there is other support available for tenants facing financial difficulties:

  • The government is “working with the judiciary on proposals to ensure that when evictions proceedings do recommence, arrangements, including rules, are in place to assist the court in giving appropriate protections for those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus.”
  • £500 Hardship Fund will go to local authorities in England so they can reduce the 2020 to 2021 council tax bills of working age people receiving Local Council Tax Support. Councils will also be able to use the funding to provide further discretionary support to vulnerable people.
  • Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the government will pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per month, until August.
  • Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will increase and, from April, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area.

Source: Gov.uk, The Goodlord Team