The COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of financial hardship for many people with Furloughs, redundancies and a general downturn in the economy. In an attempt to weather the storm the Government introduced the Coronavirus Act 2020 which placed restrictions on Landlords being able to repossess their properties. This Act increased the notice period that a Landlord had to give to tenants to 6 months and also put a stop on any court cases and evictions going ahead. This has all changed this year as the Covid related restrictions have been relaxed. In this article we will look at how these restrictions have changed and what the current rules are.
Notice periods for taking eviction action have been at a historic high of 6 months, but this changed at the beginning of June 2021, where the notice period was reduced to 4 months for almost all cases. There were exceptions for reasons of anti-social behaviour, certain cases of domestic abuse, no right to rent and also excessive rent arrears of greater than 4 months. In these cases, the notice period is lower at around 2-4 weeks depending on the situation:
- 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)
- over 4 months’ accumulated rent arrears (4 weeks’ notice)
- breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (2 weeks’ notice)
- death of a tenant (2 months’ notice)
The notice period for rent arrears will change again from the 1st of August 2021 and for rent arrears of less than 4 months, the notice period that must be given will reduce to 2 months. For serious arrears, which will be defined as arrears of 4 months or more, the notice period from the 1st of August will stay at 4 week’s notice.
Landlords have been able to take repossession cases to court since the 20th of September 2020 but had to follow the revised Practice Directions PD55c before a case could be heard at court. These new Directions were due to end at the end of July 2021 but have been extended to the end of November 2021. Although the new directions do not stop potential court proceedings, they are very prescriptive in the steps that must be taken and the documents which must be presented to the court for the case to be heard. If these new steps have not been followed, then the court can refuse to hear the case. It is important that Landlords and tenants follow these directions to ensure that any case is heard appropriately.
Bailiff enforced repossessions
These repossessions, where a court order had been granted were banned from the 17th of November 2020 to the 31st of May 2021, except in the most serious of cases. Where a landlord has a valid warrant of possession, bailiffs must give 14 days’ notice of an eviction and have been asked to stay any action if they have been made aware that anyone in the household has COVID-19 symptoms or if they are self-isolating.
The current rules around evictions are very dynamic currently and much depends on when the initial action was taken and for what reasons, for a more detailed explanation of all the potential permutations please see this informative Government website. In this rapidly shifting framework, it is important that both landlords and tenants keep themselves fully up-to-speed with the prevailing rules.