Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed that the government is to extend the stay on eviction proceedings by four weeks in England and Wales, but has also added new six month notice periods to be in place until at least 31st March 2021, effectively bringing in a six-month ban.
When courts do resume eviction hearings they will prioritise the most ‘egregious cases’, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
“I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of COVID-19. That is why today I am announcing a further four week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months,” says Jenrick.
“I am also increasing protections for renters – six month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.
“However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”
Tim Frome, Head of Legal of Landlord Action: “This is obviously very disappointing news as the suspension was due to end this Sunday on 23rd August.
“A new process was set out whereby landlords were required to provide specific information to the court in a ‘reactivation notice’ which would then result in the matter proceeding either with a hearing (rent arrears case) or a judge deciding on the paperwork (s.21 case).
“We followed the reactivation notice process and asked all clients to provide us with the relevant information. Everything has been prepared and ready to be sent to the Courts on Monday, being the first day we could send the reactivation notices out.”
It now appears that the legislation which brought that process in has been replaced although it is not yet clear how this has been achieved at the 11th hour.
Full details of how the evictions ban will be extended have not been published yet, but at one point earlier today it had been hoped that some evictions would be allowed to progress – such as those involving anti-social behaviour and extreme rent arrears.
Ben Beadle, CEO of the National Residential Landlords Association (pictured, right) says: “A blanket extension is unacceptable, especially so close to the deadline.
“An enormous amount of work as gone into finding a balance between supporting tenants who have been affected by the pandemic and preventing significant financial harm to landlords, in accordance with the Government’s promise. This announcement satisfies no-one.
“Landlords have been left powerless in exercising their legal right to deal with significant arrears unrelated to Covid-19, antisocial behaviour and extremely disruptive tenants who make life miserable for their neighbours and housemates.
“Private landlords cannot be expected to foot the bill for government failure. There must now be a plan to support households to pay their bills and to compensate landlords fully for their lost income.
Evictions expert Paul Shamplina (right) says: “This is absolutely devastating news for those landlords who already had possession cases ongoing prior to the pandemic. It means those landlords with problem tenants who have been causing anti-social behaviour or withholding rent for reasons unrelated to Covid-19 face a further delay in regaining possession of the properties.
“Whilst no-one who has been impacted by Covid-19 should face losing their home, there are many cases that are unrelated and it is causing landlords extreme hardship and misery.”
Timothy Douglas, Policy and Campaigns Manger, ARLA Propertymark comments on the ban on evictions: “The whole of the private rented sector has been impacted as a result of COVID-19 but we must recognise that the courts already faced a backlog of cases prior to the pandemic.
“It is important to take steps back towards normality so that both landlords and tenants have access to the justice system, while putting measures in place to offer further support to tenants who have built up COVID-related arrears through no fault of their own.”
The decision comes just a few days after Northern Ireland announced it is to extend its ban for another three months.