The government has announced a further extension of the eviction ban for at least six weeks until 21st February, at which point it will be reviewed.
Although this is cataclysmic news for the thousands of landlords waiting to evict tenants via a bailiff, the government has heeded the NRLA’s calls or a widening of the circumstances when evictions can go ahead.
It is understood that landlords will be able to enforce possession orders if their tenants are more than six months in arrears irrespective of when the arrears accrued and therefore no longer have to pre-date Covid.
Other enforcement exceptions remains in place including domestic violence and anti-social behaviour.
At the moment landlords can initiate possession claims via the court system and be granted orders after the courts re-opened in September, but since early November bailiffs in England and Wales have only been able to execute possession orders for a narrow set of reasons including extreme rent arrears and domestic violence.
“The repossessions ban is a sticking plaster that will ultimately lead to more people losing their homes,” says Ben Beadle (pictured), Chief Executive of the NRLA.
“It means tenants’ debts will continue to mount to the point where they have no hope of paying them off leading eventually to them having to leave their home.
“Instead the government should recognise the crisis facing many tenants and take immediate action to enable them to pay their debts as is happening in Scotland and Wales. The objective should be to sustain tenancies in the long term and not just the short term.”
LandlordZONE also understands that the new six-month limit on arrears will be retrospective, so landlords who have court orders pending will not be able to proceed if their rent arrears are older than six months.
The announcement has been widely expected since Boris Johnson announced the new national lockdown on Monday, after which a growing chorus of political and housing figures and organisations have been calling for the government to act.
On Wednesday, Johnson hinted at a likely evictions extension, saying that the current ‘Christmas truce’ due to expire on Monday was ‘under review’.
Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action says: “This is some positive news, that landlords can proceed now with 6 months arrears, rather then nine months prior to March 2020 and I worry about the backlogs but we await the final details.
“Landlord Action has so many desperate landlords at Landlord Action that have cases ongoing now for over 18 months and are stuck at the final stage of awaiting an eviction date, with very little prospect of recouping the arrears. Well done to the NRLA for campaigning for this.”
Oli Sherlock (pictured), Head of Insurance at lettings platform Goodlord, says: “Many landlords are now nearing breaking point. Scores are facing financial difficulties as a result of unpaid rent and ongoing mortgage costs, with a few facing uncommunicative tenants who are refusing to vacate properties even when leases come to an end (although this is a minority of tenants).
“Unless more support is put in place for those struggling, we can expect to see a large number of landlords withdraw their lets from the housing market over the next year. This will put pressure on a vital source of housing at a time of critical need. Decision makers must start thinking about how tenants and landlords alike can recover from these challenges during and following the stay on evictions.”