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Big news: eviction update part 2

November 23, 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 now further changes for bailiffs have been announced.

If you’re concerned, remember that evictions are still very rare, particularly if your property is professionally let and managed. According to independent research, 87% of tenants have continued to pay full rent during the pandemic and a further 8% have come to an agreement with their landlord over a reduced amount.

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.)

Obviously, with lockdown restrictions changing frequently and often quickly, all of us in the buy to let industry need to be be prepared for the rules around evictions to fluctuate. But, as it currently stands, although bailiffs might not be able to evict a tenant from a property, the courts are open for possession hearings. So, if you need to evict your tenant for any valid reason, you can certainly start the process.

If you’d 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-19 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
  • From 29th August, the notice period for evictions was extended from 3 to 6 months. As a result, the validity for a section 21 was extended from six to ten months
     
  • 22nd September: bailiffs in England and Wales were told by the government that they should not enforce any possession orders over the Christmas period, between 11th December and 11th January

And if you have a case that’s been stalled in the system during the pandemic, here’s a summary of how the courts are currently proceeding with possession hearings:

  • The most serious eviction cases (e.g. those involving anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, fraud and extreme rent arrears) - will be prioritised
     
  • 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
     
  • Updated versions of the ‘reactivation notices’ have been published by the government
     
  • During the pandemic, courts are expected to operate at about 25% of their normal capability

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
     
  • No evictions will take place while ‘firebreak’ conditions are in force

Changes in Scotland

  • Scotland: A six-month notice period applied from 7th April. Since 3rd October, landlords have been able to 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 September, 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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