The ban on evictions, which gave renting tenants some much needed breathing room during the lockdown period, has now been lifted meaning proceedings will be going to court for the first time since March.
In England, Wales and Scotland, landlords must give six months’ notice of eviction, which has increased from two months before COVID-19 hit. Local authorities have said that eviction notices should only be issued unless deemed completely unavoidable.
What is eviction?
Eviction is the legal process a landlord will use when they want a tenant to leave their property.
If the landlord wishes to regain possession of a property either at the end of a fixed-term tenancy agreement, or during a tenancy with no fixed end date, they will usually issue a Section 21 notice. This Section 21 notice is sometimes referred to as a “no-fault eviction”, due to the landlord not having to give a reason for their decision to evict. It is the most common type of eviction.
On the other hand, where a tenant breaks the terms of their rental agreement, by not paying rent, being anti-social or causing damage to the property, the landlord can issue a Section 8 eviction notice. Landlords must specify which tenancy terms have been broken. If the tenants do not leave by the specified date, the landlord can apply to the court for a possession order.
A backlog of cases
Over the six month period covered by the ban a large backlog of cases has built up, which has been expected. The National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) has stated private landlords would “work with their tenants to sustain tenancies wherever possible”, but ultimately defended the restart of evictions.
In terms of the courts, priority will be given to “serious cases”. This may involve tenants committing anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse within the properties.
The six month rule
As mentioned above, renters will have six months to leave the property after their landlord has issued a notice of eviction – as long as the notice was served after August 29.
There are some exceptions to this rule, where renters could face eviction within four weeks or less. Such issues such as fraudulent behaviour, rent arears of up to six months and violent conduct are all examples of such exceptions.
If the landlord issued the eviction notice before 26 March 2020 the time frame shortens to two months for the tenants to leave, and it is three months if the eviction notice was served between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020.
Advice to tenants
Firstly, if you are worried about eviction and want advice our team of lawyers are here to help, likewise if you are a landlord and want to know what rights you have in reclaiming your property.
From the tenants’ point of view, it is worth considering the following options:
- You are entitled to your notice period – Landlords are obliged to give tenants notice before they can apply to court for a possession order. In most cases, this notice must now be at least six months in England, Wales and Scotland.
- Get legal advice before giving up your home voluntarily even if eviction seems unavoidable. It is illegal for your landlord to:
- harass you
- lock you out of your home, even temporarily
- make you leave without notice or a court order.
- If you are struggling to pay rent, you should speak to your landlord and organise a repayment plan to pay off arrears if possible.
- Gather evidence – it is good to have receipts of rent paid and documented communications with your landlord, such as emails, voice mails or text messages.
- If you are on Universal Credit and unable to pay rent you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment from your local council.
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