Legal: As possession hearings restart, new rules for proceeding with evictions
Courts in England and Wales had been due to reopen for possession hearings on 24 August – which was great relief for landlords who’ve been trying to evict tenants, for good reason, since before the pandemic began. But, on Friday 21 August, the Housing Secretary announced that the ban on eviction action was being extended for another 4 weeks. That means the eviction ban will have lasted a total of 6 months by the time possession hearings finally begin again on 21 September.
In the announcement, Robert Jenrick also said the government plans to increase protection for renters in England by introducing 6-month notice periods. Note: this proposed legislation only applies to England.
Full information on the announcement can be found on the government website.
COVID-19 temporary provision
In addition, if yours is one of the cases that’s been stuck in the system, there are some new rules you need to be aware of for when possession hearings resume.
On Friday 17 July, it was announced that a ‘COVID-19 temporary provision’ was being added to existing regulations. This means landlords who already have possession claims in the system relating to non-payment of rent must now serve a ‘reactivation notice’, informing both their tenant and the court that they wish to resume the action. This provision will remain in place until 28 March 2021.
In addition to serving the ‘reactivation notice’, landlords must also provide the court with:
- Any relevant information about the tenant’s situation with regard to COVID-19, such as whether they are vulnerable or have been ill
- A full arrears history.
The hope is that some landlords will have been able to resolve the matter with their tenant over the last few months, meaning they no longer require court action. For the remainder, this new measure is intended to help ensure cases are correctly prioritised and the court’s time is used effectively.
But what will the impact be on landlords? Well, with around 5,700 cases believed to be in the system backlog and social distancing rules affecting the number of cases that can be heard each day, there are going to be delays. Add on the additional paperwork for landlords to complie and submit and there’s no question it will be more expensive and take longer than expected for them to regain possession of their properties.
If you have any questions or concerns about a current eviction action relating to a property that we manage on your behalf, please do contact us at any time.
Full government information is available in the House of Commons Briefing Paper.