The eviction ban extension - How landlords should be coping

This information is current and updated to the best of our knowledge as of Monday 24 May 2021.

 

Latest updates and advice

The Government has announced that restrictions on evictions begin to “taper off” from 1 June. 

The announcement means that until 31 May, landlords will need to continue to give tenants six months’ notice before they can begin a court claim to repossess their property. A landlord who gives notice of eviction on 31 May will not be able to start the claim until November in most cases.

However, from 1 June: 

  • Enforcement of possession by county court bailiffs and high court enforcement officers will be allowed in all cases. They will be asked not to enforce where a tenant is self isolating or has COVID-19 symptoms
  • Any notice periods set at six months – for both Section 8 and Section 21 – will reduce to four months, with ground 7 (death of a tenant) and 7B (Right to Rent breach) reducing to pre-COVID levels
  • The definition of ‘serious rent arrears’ – which enables access to a four week notice period under Section 8 grounds 8, 10 and 11 – will reduce from six months’ to four months’ rent

From 1 August, the notice period for ‘non-serious’ arrears – i.e. less than four months’ arrears – will reduce to two months’ notice.

From 1 October, all extended notice periods will revert to pre-COVID levels, for both Section 8 and Section 21. 

An analysis of research by the NRLA shows that 840,000 private renters in England and Wales could have built rent arrears since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.

Landlord Action Founder Paul Shamplina feels that this ‘rare positive news’ is due to the thorough campaigning of the NRLA. However, he admits to worrying about the backlog of court cases still lingering since September last year. In fact, he believes that cases will actually ramp up, and predicts there could be as many as 150,000 possession claims made between now and the end of 2022.

It’s been horrendous for those landlords who have accumulated rent arrears, we’ve never seen so many cases where landlords are owed more than a year’s rent with very little likelihood of getting it back.

 – Paul Shamplina, Landlord Action Founder and Hamilton Fraser Chief Commercial Officer

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Temporary court changes to remain aware of 

Temporary changes to procedures still stand, with amended dates for applications and notices. These include:

  • For applications sent to court before 3 August 2020, claimants were required to issue a ‘reactivation notice’ in writing to the court as these applications were suspended (stayed)
  • The deadline for issuing reactivation notices with the court expired at the end of April 2021. If any landlords did not submit a reactivation on a live case they will now need to make an application to the court to have the matter dealt with. 
  • In all claims claimants must provide any relevant information about the defendant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and their dependants. This is primarily so the court can consider defendants’ vulnerability, disability, and social security position, and those who are “shielding”
  • Claimants will need to produce the full arrears history of the defendant in advance, rather than at the hearing (as far as practicable)
  • The court will be able to fix a date either on or after issue, so that hearings are appropriately spread out
  • The court can suspend the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing (which would usually be no more than eight weeks) to spread out hearings appropriately and ensure that the court has capacity. 

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Review hearing bundles

It’s also important to note that the majority of cases will continue to be listed at the hearing stage after the issue of a ‘reactivation notice’ should be listed for a ‘review hearing’ by the court.

This stage was introduced to alleviate the current backlog of cases and assist the courts in prioritising the most urgent cases. A Judge will look at a bundle filed and decide whether the matter should proceed afterwards to a ‘substantive hearing’ at which point a possession order can then be granted to the landlord.

Judges may also direct that the case be referred to government backed mediation at this point prior to a substantive hearing as there is a free pilot mediation service being offered.

The success of this pilot is not yet clear. 

Since preparing said bundle can be a complicated and time consuming job, Landlord Action has put together a specialist team to help landlords with this process – get in touch to find out more.

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Looking forward

While the rental sector is slowly moving closer to normal, communication, understanding and transparency are absolutely key, as they have been throughout the COVID crisis. While bailiffs will be able to resume work from 1 June, this is a last-ditch attempt for many landlords. Discussion and managing expectations is still vital, and a large part of that can be managed through mediation.

Landlord Action has partnered with the Property Redress Scheme to help landlords regain possession of their properties. Landlords who use Landlord Action to serve notice on their tenants and start the process of eviction, can choose to simultaneously use the Property Redress Scheme’s tenancy mediation service to come to a resolution outside of court.

Paul and Landlord Action are also officially backing the NRLA in their call for the Government to bring in a tenant saver loan scheme similar to schemes in place in Scotland and Wales.

This will mean that when tenants have been affected financially by COVID-19, the Government will loan the tenant the monies for rent arrears and pay it directly to the landlord. This way, everyone is happy as the tenant can’t be evicted by the landlord and still gets paid and that tenancy is sustained.

 – Paul Shamplina, Landlord Action Founder and Hamilton Fraser Chief Commercial Officer

Going forward, Paul can see a lot of landlords “looking at direct three and five-year tenancies with councils offering guaranteed rent,” because landlords will be worried about their tenants’ employment situations. But that’s looking forward.

As for what landlords can do right now to stem the tide? Write to your MP to outline the importance of addressing COVID-related arrears and how this is affecting your business and others in your area. Because, while we are pleased that the Government has finally confirmed the end of these emergency measures, nothing has been done as of yet to address the rent debt crisis.

It’s also important for landlords to open a dialogue and mediate with their tenants, working that much harder to reach an amicable solution because taking it to the courts is just not practical right now.

The Property Redress Scheme tenancy mediation service is an NRLA-endorsed scheme that exists for this very reason – sorting disputes with common sense and practical advice. He also thinks that landlords will need to be a lot more stringent with their referencing and will insist on having guarantors.

Whatever curve balls 2021 continues to bring us – such as clarification on the abolishment of Section 21 ‘no fault evictions’ in this autumn’s Renter’s Reform Bill – it’s up to us to work together as a sector to hold each other up.

It’s only by working together that the private landlords of this country, and the 4.5 million renters that live in their properties, can continue to coexist in harmony. COVID or no COVID.

 

If you are an independent landlord in further need of guidance regarding residential  tenant eviction, contact Landlord Action today.

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