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Big news: eviction update

October 1, 2020Categories: Landlords
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There have been numerous changes to the rules around evictions and court possession hearings since the start of the pandemic. It’s been confusing and frustrating for landlords and, at the end of last month, yet another announcement was made.

As of 29th August, the notice period for a landlord wishing to evict a tenant in England has been further extended, from three to six months. This means landlords will:

  1. not be able to evict a tenant over the winter months, and
  2. not have an eviction hearing in court until the end of February 2021 at the earliest.

As a result of the temporary extension of the notice period, the validity for a Section 21 has been extended from six to ten months.

This emergency legislation has been introduced to ensure that vulnerable tenants are not evicted and forced to find a new home over winter, when local authorities are already dealing with increased demand for housing services. The government is also issuing guidance that bailiffs should not enforce possession orders over the Christmas period.

If you’re concerned, remember that evictions are still very rare, particularly if your property is professionally let and managed.

The government is also keen to reassure landlords that they’ll still be able to evict at short notice in the most serious circumstances, e.g. in cases of anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse. If a tenant is in ‘serious’ arrears, owing more than six months’ rent, they can now be evicted with a minimum of four weeks’ notice. And if you served a Section 21 with a three-month notice on or before 28th August, that three-month notice period still stands.

This latest legislative move means England, Wales and Scotland are now in line with each other regarding eviction notice periods. (See box below for country-specific changes.)

If you would like to discuss the changes or need any advice or support regarding evicting a tenant, just contact your local Your Move branch and you will be able to speak to an experienced member of our team. 

Summary of the changes to date in England
 

  • From 19th March: New applications for a possession order could not be made to the court for three months, effectively suspending any new eviction action until towards the end of June
     
  • 5th June: Announcement of a two-month extension on the ‘eviction ban’ - possession claims would not be heard in court until the end of August
     
  • 17th July: Announcement that a ‘Covid temporary provision’ was being added to existing regulations. Landlords wishing to proceed with possession claims already in the system are now required to serve a ‘reactivation notice’ to both their tenant and the court. Under this provision, landlords also have to provide the court with any relevant information about the tenant’s situation with regard to COVID-19, such as whether they have been ill or are shielding, along with a full arrears history. This will remain in place until 28th March 2021
     
  • Friday 21st August (just before the courts were due to re-open for possession hearings on Monday 24th): Announcement of a further 4-week extension of the suspension of eviction hearings, until 21st September
     
  • 28th August: Announcement that, from 29th August, the notice period for evictions will be extended from 3 to 6 months

Changes in Wales

  • The notice period was extended from three to six months back in July, effective for notices served between 24th July and 30th September 2020
  • From the beginning of September, tenants can access a loan scheme to help with payment of rent, with funds being transferred directly from the scheme to the landlord or agent

Changes in Scotland

  • Scotland: A six-month notice period applied from 7th April. From 3rd October, landlords can give 28 days’ notice to evict on the grounds of anti-social behaviour or criminal activity
  • The Scottish government is also providing short-term loan support for landlords who are facing hardship as a result of non-payment of rent

Finally, with courts re-opening on Monday 21st, further details were published about how the courts plan to proceed with evictions:

  • During the pandemic, courts are expected to operate at about 25% of their normal capability
     
  • Updated versions of the ‘reactivation notices’ have been published by the government
     
  • You will be given 21 days’ notice of a ‘review date’, when you must be available for a telephone meeting with your tenant and/or their representatives. 14 days before the review date, you must provide your evidence (in paper or electronic form) to the court. After the telephone review, the court will decide whether to proceed to a hearing
     
  • The most serious eviction cases (e.g. those involving anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, fraud and extreme rent arrears) - will be prioritised

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