Solicitor Asma Muneer, in our Dispute Resolution team, explains the impact of updated legislation and the lifting of the ban on residential evictions on landlords and tenants.
Further to our blog article 'COVID-19 - The Impact of the Coronavirus Act 2020 on Landlords Seeking to Recover Possession', published in January, we set out below the updates to the legislation in line with recent Government announcements.
Notices seeking possession
A key change brought in as an emergency measure during the pandemic was the extension of notice periods given to tenants when serving notices seeking possession, for both Section 8 and Section 21 notices. In the majority of cases, until 31 May 2021, the notice period was increased to six months.
From 1 June 2021, notice periods have been reduced and will now be at least four months in most circumstances, including in cases where there are less than four months’ of unpaid rent. However, there are exemptions for the most serious cases including anti-social behaviour, extreme rent arrears, no right to rent and fraud, where the notice periods are shorter.
It is expected that if lockdown restrictions ease as planned, notice periods could return to their pre-pandemic status on 1 October 2021. In England, that is usually two months’ notice under a Section 21 notice.
For further information on possession claims, you may refer to the Government guidance: 'Evicting Tenants (England and Wales) and 'Understanding the Possession Action Process: A Guide for Private Landlords in England and Wales' for the latest guidance.
Enforcing a possession order
If a possession order has been granted by the Court and the tenants do not leave the property in accordance with the order, you can apply to the Court for a Warrant of Possession for bailiffs to evict the tenants from the property.
Up until 31 May 2021 legislation has been in place to ensure that bailiffs did not serve eviction notices or carry out evictions except in the most serious circumstances such as where there was illegal occupation, false statements, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social rented sector, where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant and serious rent arrears of more than 6 months’ rent.
As of 1 June 2021 the restriction on bailiff enforcement has been lifted, reflecting the easing of national restrictions. Bailiffs are now able to send out eviction notices and enforce evictions. Given the requirement to provide 14 days’ notice, evictions are expected to take place from mid-June onwards. As a precautionary measure, bailiffs have been instructed not to carry out an eviction if anyone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating.
It has been noted that the ban on evictions could not be extended indefinitely given the adverse impact on landlords, many of whom are struggling due to the level of rent arrears and feel they have been unable to access justice for the last 14 months. Although, there is still widespread concern for those tenants who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of the pandemic and need additional financial support in order to pay off the arrears and avoid eviction.
For further information or legal advice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.