In March, at the onset of lockdown, the government introduced legislation to stay eviction proceedings against tenants due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the full financial impact of the outbreak became clearer, the moratorium was extended until 23 August, followed by a further extension until 20 September – meaning that eviction proceedings will have been banned for a total of six months.
Landlords seeking to repossess their properties should be aware of the introduction of a new package of support measures for tenants.
An “unprecedented” package
From 29 August, landlords must provide at least six months’ notice before seeking possession through the courts (in the majority of cases) until March 2021. Introduced to ensure tenants are able to remain in their homes over winter, the new rules encompass evictions via Section 21 notices, as well as those issued to tenants in rent arrears of less than six months.
For notices served on or before 28 August, these changes will not apply, although the notice period must still be at least three months.
Safeguards against the worst behaviour
There will be exemptions from the six-month notice period though for the “worst cases”, with much shorter notice periods for:
- anti-social behaviour (four weeks’ notice)
- domestic abuse (two to four weeks’ notice)
- false statement (two to four weeks’ notice)
- rent arrears of over six months (four weeks’ notice)
- breach of ‘Right to Rent’ immigration rules (three months’ notice)
Increased responsibilities for landlords
In addition to the above, new rules due to come into force on 20 September will oblige landlords seeking repossession to include in their claim information about their tenant’s circumstances – including how they may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will ensure the courts are party to all the necessary information they need to make a reasoned judgment. Where this information is not provided, judges will have the discretion to adjourn proceedings.
Tenants “must continue to pay their rent”
While the new measures are focused on the continued wellbeing of tenants, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was sure to acknowledge “the pressure on landlords during this difficult time”. He therefore emphasised that tenants who were able to pay their rent should continue to do so, so as not to “exacerbate” the issues that many landlords are currently experiencing.
Our Residential Property team is here to help
If you are a landlord seeking to repossess your property, whether due to anti-social behaviour or another reason, we are here to help. Evicting a tenant is a difficult and stressful process at the best of times – and these are certainly not the best of times. With new legislation constantly being introduced to keep up with the ever-changing situation, it can be difficult to keep track of what your rights and responsibilities are. If this is the case for you, please get in touch so we can advise and assist you in reaching the best possible outcome.