The COVID-19 pandemic threw everyone into a world of uncertainty and anxiety, with people unable to work, many confined to their homes and entire industries grinding to a halt. It was a time for compassion, and one element of compassion that the government took, and one that was entirely necessary, was the ban on residential evictions and possession orders.


To be made homeless during the pandemic would have been extremely terrible, and with peoples incomes directly affected by COVID-19, the risk of evictions was higher than ever. This rule has come in various forms as the virus has become more under control as time has gone by, but it is on its way to returning to pre-pandemic status, with the earlier stages of this occurring from 1 October. This article will explore what this means for landlords and tenants.


Definition of eviction or possession order


We are sure readers will know, but here is a quick description of evictions / possession orders: essentially it is a Court order issued to remove a tenant from a property when the landlord no longer wants them to be there. This is usually for a specific reason but sometimes without one, in what is called a no-fault eviction. These reasons can be to do with rent not being paid or anti-social behaviour from the tenant etc. In the case of no-fault eviction, it normally happens when a fixed-term tenancy comes to an end (in legal terms, an assured shorthold tenancy), the landlord does not want to rent this property out at all or to one particular tenant, and instead want to take over the property themselves.



What is changing?


In the lead-up to the present day, and through the past year and a half in which coronavirus has taken a firm grip of society, allowances have been made to stop evictions from occurring or to give the people getting evicted more time to prepare. For example, a rule to give tenants at least 4 months to prepare was issued back in May 2021. Before that, the rule was held at 6 months.


Now that vaccinations have been rolling out for some time, people are going to work and the world is trying to take a more regular form, such allowances are coming to an end. This means landlords will be able to give tenants a 2 month notice period, using either Section 21 or Section 8 notices from 1 October 2021. The change is likely to be welcomed by landlords, but may leave a slightly bitter taste in the mouths of tenants.


For tenants who have had severe rent arrears, or other issues, may even face a shorter time period in which they can be evicted.


Possession Proceedings and Bailiff Enforcements


As we have mentioned in the above, the notice periods given before evictions can legally take place became shorter and shorter, especially in cases involving unpaid rent. For example, it dropped from 4 months in June 2021 to 2 months in August 2021. In more serious cases the noticed period could be as little as 4 weeks – the threshold for what constitutes ‘serious arrears’ is ‘arrears equivalent to 4 or more months’ rent.


Bailiffs were largely not permitted to operate from 17 November 2020 until 31 May 2021. From 1 June 2021, orders were legally enforceable again but only where the landlord has a valid warrant of possession. In terms of a notice period, bailiffs were obliged to provide 14 days’ notice of an eviction and were told not to carry out an eviction if they are made aware that anyone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.



Practical consideration


Although landlords will be given green lights to evict tenants as before from 1st October 2021, it is still our advice that they may want to exercise such power cautiously in light of current economic environment. Many tenants are yet to receive income the same level as pre-pandemic. Many others are still struggling to secure jobs. By evicting current tenants, landlords may find it difficult to find new satisfactory tenants to put in their properties. In many cases, it may achieve a win-win situation where both landlords and tenants are willing to negotiate and resolve the relevant issues, rather than resorting to eviction such a radical step.


Commercial leases?


They are not affected by the current change. The current protection for tenants continues to 25th March 2022, which could be relief for many businesses which are still struggling.


What do we think?


Of course, there comes a time where things must start returning to normal. Speaking objectively, it must be said that tenants have been given more support during the pandemic than landlords. While it may be the fact that the tenants are often the more financially vulnerable of the two parties, this is not to say that landlords do not have their share of worries and responsibilities.


Saying that, we still would like to see evictions handled in as compassionate a way as possible, whereby tenants are given an adequate amount of time to find new accommodations. Where Isobel Thomson has said that she does not expect to see a spike in evictions once these new rules come into play, this will remain to be seen.



Are you a landlord or a tenant that has questions regarding this? We are here for you!

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