Is the government planning to extend the ban on evictions?
5th May 2020
5th May 2020
As discussed in our March Legal Update “COVID-19 Coronavirus - Government support for tenants and landlords”, (see here) the government has banned all evictions until the tail end of next month as part of a raft of measures to protect tenants facing financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick faced questions from a Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee yesterday (04 May) on how the government will continue to support tenants after the three-month suspension on evictions is lifted on 25 June 2020. He also announced prospective measures purportedly to avoid a flood of eviction proceedings at the expiry of the stay.
Robert Jenrick said a decision will be made next month on whether to extend the ban, but urged landlords to act in good faith and investigate other solutions to overcome rent arrear issues before embarking on eviction proceedings.
Mr Jenrick also told MPs that a pre-action protocol is to be brought in and apply from the end of the postponement on evictions, although it is unclear when that will be implemented. Supposedly this is to enable tenants to benefit from an added degree of protection because instead of embarking upon the eviction proceedings immediately, there will be a duty upon landlords to reach out to the tenant, discuss their situation and try to find an affordable repayment plan. This will enable tenants to remain in their homes, and to recover the rent they haven’t been able to pay because of their circumstances, also avoiding the matter going to.
Most possession cases already with the Court are currently suspended until at least 25 June 2020. A formal announcement on an extension to the ban on evictions is due in June, which will undoubtedly depend on the passage of the virus and lockdown measures in place at that time. A further extension to the delay on obtaining possession is obviously very worrying for landlords as they are faced with many more months of rent arrears on top of those they have already incurred.
In respect of cases already issued with the Court, and therefore currently stayed, the position is extremely unfortunate but is unavoidable and, sadly, we must all wait to see when progress can be made with those actions once the enforced stay on those proceedings is lifted.
For landlords who have yet to issue proceedings, there are a couple of important pointers to take away from the current position and the announcement made by the Housing Minister yesterday.
Our view is that no landlord, able to issue a possession claim now or very shortly, should delay in progressing that claim for possession and therefore they should issue proceedings now regardless of the fact that the matter will simply sit with the Court for the time being. The advantages to that are as follows:-
Whilst it is the case that proceedings issued now will simply sit with the Court until the stay is lifted, it is assumed that, once that occurs, those proceedings will be dealt with in the order in which they first arrived. Accordingly, whilst the ‘queue’ is not currently moving, the claim is at least in the queue and sitting ahead of what is expected to be a glut of proceedings issued by those landlords waiting for the lifting of the stay.
If a new pre-action protocol is to be implemented shortly, as the Housing Minister described, then it is unlikely to take effect retrospectively such as would affect proceedings issued before its creation. Insofar as that proposed pre-action protocol causes delays (whilst we don’t know the proposed details yet, it is sure, from the Housing Minister’s comments yesterday, to result in a delay) in the ability to issue a possession claim, landlords who issue now, before the implementation of a new pre-action protocol, should avoid being affected by it and thus avoid those delays.
Any saving on time, certainly in cases where the tenant is suffering (or taking advantage of) financial strife, will amount to potentially significant savings for landlords and thus should be taken full advantage of.
The advice then is to be aware that the government have made it quite clear that they are going to place further hurdles in the way of a landlord obtaining possession during and immediately after this unprecedented time and therefore, if a landlord can, they should avoid delaying any proposed action and, certainly, should not wait for the stay to be lifted.
As an aside, and in answer to the regular inevitable questions following from the above, a landlord may still serve, during the current lockdown, both section 21 and section 8 notices. The only amendment to previous rules is that due to the changes made under the Coronavirus Act 2020, both of those notices must now run for a minimum notice period of three months.
Should you have any questions in relation to the above, then please do not hesitate to contact Susan Fox on email@example.com or 01435 897297.
This legal update is provided free of charge for information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of KDL Law or by KDL Law as a whole.
If you have received this update in error or wish to unsubscribe from future updates then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up to receive FREE regular Legal Updates by email