The government has finally laid its updated lockdown regulations in front of parliament to clarify when landlords with existing possession orders can move to evict, revealing that one of the exemptions will be ‘substantial’ rent arrears, now to be classed as those over nine months.

As expected these regulations, which will come into force today and only relate to England, enable bailiffs to attend properties to execute a warrant of possession if it concerns trespassers, the death of a tenant, an unoccupied property and tenants involved in anti-social behaviour or, crucially, those who have built up substantial rent arrears.

It is this last point that many landlords and solicitors have been waiting for clarification on; how long can a tenant have not paid their rent before an existing possession order can proceed during the lockdown.

18 months’ wait

This may seem trivial when the lockdown is only a month long, but the way the law has been framed, landlords given the go-ahead to evict will now have been waiting at least 17/18 months before being able to deal with a tenant with substantial rent arrears.

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This is because the eviction ban exemption only kicks in after nine or more months of unpaid rent, but any arrears accrued after March 23th are ignored – so another eight months on top of non-payment before an existing possession order can then proceed.

Today’s new regulations follow a sustained campaign by the industry to seek clarification, as well as efforts by leading PRS lawyer David Smith (pictured) who says his effort to point out that the the government ‘requesting’ bailiffs do not enforce legal evictions was in itself likely to be unlawful.

“This is a matter for Parliament and who gets evicted should not be at the whim of the Lord Chancellor,” he says.

Unfair

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Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, says: “In trying to arrive at a compromise the Government has failed to help those in genuine need whilst rewarding those whose arrears have nothing to do with the pandemic, and in some cases are wilfully not paying their rent.

“This is doing nothing to help those tenants who are trying to do the right thing and seeking to pay off their debts.

“Instead of prolonging the problem with short-term fixes, the Government needs to urgently bring in a financial package to enable tenants to pay off rent arrears.”

Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action says: “Put simply, landlords are not banks or the welfare state.  In fact, banks get their money back, but landlords are expected to swallow these losses.

“How is it fair that a landlord should be covering the rent for someone who was already failing to pay rent long before the pandemic started? What’s more, the likelihood of landlords in a similar situation to her, being able to collect monies owed is very slim.

“Whilst this is a positive step forward, there is a long way to go in clearing the backlog of cases and my concern now is for those landlords who have cases with, for example, seven months of rent arrears prior to March.

With the current lockdown and then the Christmas amnesty, evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs until 11 January 2021 at the very earliest, so even in the best case scenario, those landlords will be facing more than 17 months without rent.”

Read the new regulation in full.



7 COMMENTS

  1. Eviction ban…Eviction ban not.

    Bailiff enforce judgments… Bailiff enforce judgments not.

    This is not a game. It is shameful that we cannot uphold our laws against a virus that we cannot even see.

  2. Im now embarrassed to say that im a member of RLA now NRLA and am shocked at their lack of effective campaigning on behalf of their membership.
    As landlords we are being destroyed by this government and vilified by generation rent that we aim to provide a business service to for a fair return.
    Landlords income has been hit by tax changes, licensing charges, new regulations and now our inability to regain our property when tenants break legal tenancy agreements by not paying their rent. On top of this we now have the new MESS coming which will force landlords to spend thousands to upgrade the energy efficiency of properties, a lot of which due to their age/build/location cannot reach EPC C so will potentially become unlettable/unmortgeable or be at risk of fines by LA and/or tenants. How can landlords afford to do this when they cannot guarantee rental income to pay for it ?
    IMHO there is now a perfect storm brewing for the PRS which will make it an untenable business to be in. I believe that the government know this so to stop mass evictions which the social sector cannot provide for are shutting landlords exits with making section 8 useless and the probable abolition of section 21.
    It will become impossible to sell a property without vacant possession because BTL has now become too risky and the investment case no longer stacks up.
    Now more than ever we need a strong landlord association and IMHO the current ones have become unfit for purpose!

    • Fully concur with what you have stated.

      I think most LL would accept all sorts of strictures PROVIDING that they could get rid of rent defaulting tenants quickly if they wished.

      I consider that the dysfunctional S8 process should used for all other eviction reasons apart from Rent defaulting.

      Just allow LL to remove rent defaulting tenants without any court action being required after 46 days.

      So where rents are paid monthly in advance within that 46 day period would be 2 months of rent default and 14 days after 2nd rent default that tenant would know they were to be booted out if the LL notifies them the day after the 2nd month rent default.

      Of course the way a tenant could prevent a LL booting them out is to reduce rent arrears to one month during the 14 day notice period.

      It is as you suggest simply scandalous that rent defaulting tenants are allowed to occupy for free requiring a LL to go through a long expensive and tortuous repossession process.

      This dysfunctional eviction process fundamentally undermines the business proposition of rental property particularly if the property is mortgaged.

      Few small businesses can survive for years without income.

      Govt though is effectively requiring LL to facilitate this.

      LL should not be expected to provide free accommodation for feckless tenants.

      Why should it be considered acceptable that tenants shouldn’t make any provision for sudden income loss.

      Govt is effectively allowing feckless tenants to ponce off LL rather than having made provision for losing income.

      No other business is expected to subsidise feckless users.

      There is no doubt the PRS will massively shrink in size as a result of the dysfunctional eviction process.

  3. So that could be non-payment of 9 months, plus up to 8 months rent? So, if you’re a dodgy tenant and your rent is say £1600 pcm, that would mean it won’t count until you owe the landlord over £27000? That’s a much better deal than taking up traditional crime! After all, if you nick £27,000 from a local jewellers and you’re caught ‘bang to rights’ as they used to say in The Sweeny, you’d be regarded as a criminal and ‘sent down my son’.

    Thus it would seem that Johnson’s Bright and Shiny Government have decided that small residential landlords must now form part of The Landlords’ Welfare State – because the Government ‘cares’ so deeply.

    You know, if only some big landlords out there were able to retain the services of a friendly Tory MP or minister for, say £8333.00 per month, maybe we might get The Government to see things our way ? Just a thought…

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