Over the course of the pandemic, the government has brought in many polices and guidelines in order to protect UK residents. One such measure was a ban on evictions, whereby renters could rest assured that they would not be made homeless during the COVID-19 outbreak. This was a very positive policy which benefitted many people.
Now that Coronavirus restrictions are easing and the country begins its journey back to normality, the eviction ban is due to change. On 12th May 2021, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher announced the following changes:
Notice period to be reduced
From 1st June 2021, landlords’ notice to evict tenants will be reduced from current 6 months to 4 months, until at least 30th September 2021.
For both landlords and solicitors who intend to service notices to evict tenants now, they may well be better off to wait until 1st June 2021, as by then the notice period will be shortened by two months.
Some landlords who have already served notices on their tenant may wonder whether they should replace a new notice with the previous one, as it could mean that they can commence eviction proceedings sooner for the above reason.
It should be noted that for any planned eviction based on rent arrears, the notice period will be further shortened to two months from 1st August 2021, where the arrears are less than four months’ rent. This will further reduce landlords’ anxiety.
Definition of rent arrears as a serious factor has changed:
From 1st June 2021, rent arrears of up to 4 months will be treated as a serious factor. In such circumstance, the landlord only need to give the tenants 4 weeks’ notice before they commence Court proceedings. Currently, only arrears of up to 6 months are treated as a serious factor. Many landlords will clearly take advantage of this change.
Eviction ban to cease:
The current ban on bailiff-enforced evictions, introduced as an emergency measure during lockdown, will end on 31 May. This means that From 1 June, bailiffs will be able to enforce evictions; however, social distance has to be complied with. Further, no eviction should be carried out where people living in the property have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating. This requires that bailiffs will have to do more field work.
Exceptions to the above general rules:
A: certain behaviours can lead to much shorter notices
There are some exceptions in which shorter notice periods can be issued to tenants. For example, notice periods for the most serious cases that present serious strains on landlords are listed below:
- anti-social behaviour (immediate to 4 weeks’ notice)
- domestic abuse in the social sector (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
- false statement (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
- 4 months’ or more accumulated rent arrears (4 weeks’ notice)
- breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (2 weeks’ notice)
- death of a tenant (2 months’ notice)
B: No eviction where breathing space has started.
This normally applies where landlords and tenants have reached an agreement to pay rent and clear arrears under the rules of the debt respite scheme. Unless the tenants have breached the terms of the agreement, the landlords are not allowed to commence eviction proceedings, even if it means that the tenants may have been in arears of more than 4 months’ rent.
Cruel or Fair?
We have to say that it is not easy to define these measures with any single word. It all depends on from which side you are looking at them. Some measures will be welcome by landlords and hated by tenants, and vice versa. We can only say that we are in a difficult time, which requests both landlords and tenants to work together and reconcile reasonably. Such team work will clearly bring in mutual benefit in a longer term. Even where parties are unable to settle disputes between themselves, it is our strong view that mediation should be sought in the first place, rather than Court proceedings.
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