On Friday 21st August, the Government announced that it would extend the eviction ban, originally due to end on 23rd August, for a further four weeks. It also introduced a minimum six-month notice period for landlords who wish to evict their tenants in England.
In summary, this is what it means to agents, landlords and tenants according to the Law Society:
- Courts are neither hearing nor progressing applications for possession orders made by landlords before March 24;
- This applies to all private or social housing tenancies as well as licenses falling under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977;
- The stay applies to England and Wales;
- There are exceptions: these include applications for possession against trespassers and applications for case management directions which have been agreed by all parties;
- Schedule 29 Coronavirus Act 2020 also remains in force until September 30. Under this Act, landlords must provide tenants with a notice period of six months when issuing a notice seeking possession;
- Tenants are still obliged to pay rent during this period. If they are unable to do so, the government encourages open and honest conversations between the landlord and tenant about the tenant’s ability to pay rent.
The Government Announcement in Full
Here is the full Government statement as released on Friday afternoon:
Renters affected by coronavirus will continue to be protected after the government extended the ban on evictions for another 4 weeks, meaning in total no legal evictions will have taken place for 6 months, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced today (21 August 2020).
The government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March.
The government will keep these measures under review with decisions guided by the latest public health advice.
When courts do resume eviction hearings they 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.
The government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been evicted since the start.
As a result, according to independent research, 87% of tenants have continued to pay full rent since the start of the pandemic, with a further 8% agreeing reduced fees with their landlords.
The vast majority of landlords have shown understanding and leadership, taking action to support tenants.
With coronavirus still posing an ongoing risk to public health, the government will continue to take action where necessary to further protect households in both the private and social rented sector are supported over winter, helping to keep them safe.
Today’s extension to the stay and 6 month notice periods will ensure those most at risk are protected. If tenants are unable to afford their rent we encourage them to speak to their landlord to agree a solution, and some households may decide to consider moving.
Government will continue to work with the judiciary and stakeholders to ensure that the courts are prepared for eviction cases to be heard safely.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:
“I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of COVID-19. That is why today I am announcing a further 4 week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for 6 months.
“I am also increasing protections for renters – 6 month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.
“However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”
What it means in reality
The impact of this decision is explained in detail by Paul Offley, Compliance Officer at The Guild of Property Professionals.
He says that, while the eviction notice in England is moving to six months, it could take far longer for landlords to go through the eviction process, especially if the tenant fails or chooses not to give up possession after the six-month period has lapsed.
“The landlord would then have to start legal proceedings and pay for a hearing and wait for a court slot, which could take another six to eight weeks to get. If the tenant pleads that they have no money, the judge will normally then give the tenant an additional 14 days to vacate the premises. It will have to go court again, at which time the judge would rule whether a bailiff would be appointed to evict the tenant. All in all, it will be some time before the landlord gets their property back.”
“During this notice period, landlords may not be able to access ‘mortgage holiday periods’, which will result in a loss of income for them. Another aspect that landlords will need to consider is that during the notice period, they are still legally bound to maintain Health and Safety issues within the property but may not have any rental income coming in to pay for repairs. If the boiler breaks for example, it will need to be fixed at the landlord’s expense, whether they are receiving an income from the property or not.”
“In the instance where an agent is managing the property, they will also still be responsible for doing so, even though they will not be receiving an income. It is unlikely that the Government will make a U-turn on this, so agents need to be working hard on arrears management so that problems and risks are reduced. The key aspect will be for landlords and agents to be able to manage the situation with their tenants and possibly agree on a payment plan where feasible.”
He adds agents should communicate to tenants that if they can’t pay their rent at any point, they should inform the agent without delay.
If the tenant says they cannot pay due to impact of employment or income relating to Covid-19, then they should be asked to provide proof by sending either a letter from their employer or bank statements. “Once an agent is aware of a problem, they should work with the tenant on getting the situation resolved as soon as possible to avoid having to go down the long eviction route, and rather look at alternate options that will work for both the landlord and tenant,” Offley concludes.
Communication is Key
At Professional Properties, we have communicated tirelessly with tenants and landlords to do everything possible to avoid any evictions. Communication is the key in this situation and conversations as early as possible have led to possible evictions being prevented.
In the coming months when furlough support is coming to and end, support for both tenants and landlords is essential.
If you wish to discuss anything regarding the eviction ban or simply want some advice on your own situation, please call our team on 01332 300197.