On 26 March 2020, the Government introduced a temporary measure and series of changes and restrictions on landlords regaining possession of their properties, in order to protect tenants from being evicted during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Eviction hearings will now resume after a 6 month ban due to Covid-19. Over the weekend, the Government has released new guidance for Landlords wishing to evict their tenants for breach of their tenancy. We have summarised the main points below.
What are the new measures?
In March temporary measures were brought in under the Coronavirus Act 2020, which meant that if a Landlord wished to serve a notice seeking possession from 26 March to 28 August 2020, they must have provided them with a notice period of at least 3 months. These provisions have now been extended and as a result, a Landlord wanting to serve a notice seeking possession from 29 August 2020 until at least 31 March 2021 must provide a notice period of at least 6 months. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Exceptions for Section 8 notices – You can serve a S8 notice if you have a reason which corresponds with a specific ground for example, they have broken the terms of the tenancy.
- If the notice is in relation to anti-social behavior, domestic abuse, rioting and false statement, then the notice period returns to the pre-covid-19 length, which depends on the type of tenancy. This means that some of these cases may be able to be brought immediately.
- If there are at least 6 months of unpaid rent, a minimum 4-week notice period will be required. If less than 6 months unpaid rent then the notice period will be 6 months.
- If the tenant has passed away or is in breach of immigration rules and does not have a right to rent a property in the UK, then a minimum of 3 month notice is required.
If you do wish to serve notice on your tenant, then it is advisable to take legal advice beforehand to ensure it is done correctly. For further information on how to serve a Section 8 or 21 notice, visit the Government website.
What if your tenant does not leave on the specified date?
If your tenant does not leave by the date specified in the notice, then you can apply to the court for a possession order. You must attach evidence to the order, explaining how Covid-19 has affected you and/or your tenant. The tenant can submit a defence, putting forward reasons why a possession order should not be made or ask for extra time to leave.
If your claim is based on a Section 21 order and you have used the court’s ‘accelerated procedure’ then a decision can be made without a hearing taking place.
You will be sent a date when the judge will review the court file, as well as a date for the substantive hearing. 14 days before you must confirm that you will be contactable on the date and send an electrical copy of all the case documents.
On the date of the review you are encouraged to be available to discuss the case with your tenant and where possible, reach a settlement without the case progressing. If you are unable to reach a settlement, there will be a possession hearing 28 days after the review date where a judge will decide whether or not to make a possession order.
If a possession order is granted and your tenant does not leave by the specified date in the order, you can apply to the court for a Warrant of possession where a county court bailiff will enforce the warrant and carry out the eviction. However, if you are in local lockdown then the bailiff may be prevented from entering the premises.
What if I already have a claim in the court system – made before 3 August 2020?
An outstanding Warrant of Possession – if you have a Warrant of Possession but no longer require an eviction to be carried out, for whatever reason, you should let the court know as soon as possible that you do not want the eviction to go ahead. The notice of bailiff’s appointment will provide you with a contact number to call to let the bailiff know that the attendance at the property is no longer needed.
If you previously had an eviction appointment which was cancelled due to Covid-19, it will be rescheduled. These will be rescheduled according to priority. Warrants will be prioritised in date order.
Possession Order – if you have a Possession Order and the date on which the tenant was due to give up possession has passed, but you have not applied for a Warrant of Possession you should carefully consider the effect that the pandemic could have had on your tenant and whether you want to proceed with the eviction.
You do not need to take any steps if you decide not to seek an eviction at once and you will still be able to rely on the Possession Order if you decide to take your property back at a later date. You can apply for a Warrant of Possession at any time during the period of 6 years after the date a Possession Order is made.
You have made a claim but have not yet had a court hearing – If you made a claim for possession before 3 August 2020, it is up to you to inform the court if you wish to proceed with your claim. You must do this by sending a completed reactivation notice to the court and delivering a copy to your tenant.
If you do not inform the court you wish to continue, your case will not proceed. However, you have 6 months to inform the court that you wish to proceed with your case. If you do not serve a reactivation notice by 4pm on 29 January 2021 your case will automatically be stayed and you will need to make a formal activation to restore it.
Claims for possession made on or after 3 August 2020
If you made a claim for possession on or after 3 August, it will be processed in due course. You will not need to provide a reactivation notice, but you should provide information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on your tenant to the court.
If you want your tenant to leave your property because your circumstances have changed, or they have broken the terms of their tenancy agreement, then you must follow strict procedures or you could be found guilty of illegally evicting or harassing your tenant. To ensure you follow the rules correctly, independent legal advice is recommended.
If you would like further information on this article, please contact Sangita Manek at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01494 770980