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England enters Lockdown 2.0 – Some evictions can now take place

In a dramatic Saturday evening address to the nation at the end of October, Boris Johnson announced that England would move away from the Tiered System of regional restrictions, and into a countrywide lockdown,  in a bid to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

However, although non-essential shops, gyms, beauty parlours, bars and restaurants were forced to close – the property market remained largely open. Construction continued on housing developments up and down the country; property viewings are permitted, and it is perfectly possible to move into a new home.

Meanwhile, unlike during the first lockdown, this time, Courts remain open, and possession hearings can take place.

However, although for now Bailiffs are not permitted to enforce the majority of possession cases until the New Year; the most recently announced change is that where the tenant had built up substantial rent arrears on 23rd March, then a Bailiff can now complete enforcement action. ‘Substantial arrears’ has been defined as nine months’ worth of rent arrears as of 23rd March.      

Bailiffs had previously agreed not to undertake enforcement action until 11th January at the earliest; and so this latest news will be welcomed by those landlords who have endured significant arrears, which were incurred well-before the Coronavirus impacted jobs and the economy.

For all other landlords it is reassuring that there are many landlords who have successfully regained possession of their property having served either a Section 21 or a Section 8 Notice.

In our experience when a tenant is informed that they are going to have to move out at some point in the future, they sometimes secure a new home before the Section 21 Notice expires. Indeed, if they have been a reliable tenant and have conducted their tenancy well, then we would always want to help them find a new home. In these cases, we can help them to serve a reduced notice – if that is what you, the landlord, agrees to.

However, the landlords who have sadly been unsuccessful in achieving vacant possession are those where the notice period hasn’t expired yet; or where the tenant has refused to leave the property once the notice period has expired. 

Regaining possession following rental arrears or other breach of tenancy  

If you have a tenant who breached their tenancy agreement, for example by entering rental arrears prior to 31st August, and they were already on a periodic tenancy, then it is highly likely that the tenant will have been served a Section 21 Notice alongside the Section 8 Notice for non-payment of rent; and as the notice period would have been three months, then this notice should either have – or is soon to have – expired.

Where this notice period has passed and the tenant still hasn’t moved out, then you can apply to the Court for a possession order.

The Court-appointed Bailiff will now be able to take enforcement action in some of the most severe cases of rental arrears; although they are obliged to refrain from taking enforcement action and securing possession until 11th January 2021 in cases where there were less than nine months’ worth of arrears on 23rd March this year.

We understand this is a very frustrating time for landlords, particularly those who have waited for a long time to regain possession of their investment property, and especially so where the tenant has built up arrears. In all cases, we continue to communicate with tenants and encourage them to resolve the situation sooner rather than later.

We hope that tenants who find they are unable to pay their rent, realise they don’t want the pressure of arrears building and growing out of control. After all, they are still liable for the rental debt, even if they keep the roof over their head - albeit temporarily.

Therefore, if they know their income has been impacted, some tenants are serving notice and leaving voluntarily, choosing to move back in with family or friends.

Whilst some of the measures brought in by the Government feel weighed towards tenants, we would urge landlords to remain within the law. 

The risks of breaching the rules by undertaking an illegal eviction are too high. We always recommend speaking to tenants about their options. Tenants who default on the rent and remain in the property longer than they are legally entitled to, will struggle to move into another privately rented home in the future, and the debt could stay with them for years.

If a tenant is unable to pay their rent and has been served with an Eviction Notice, we will talk to them about their options. If they serve notice on their own terms they can leave before the problem spirals out of control. Provided the tenancy has moved onto a periodic arrangement the tenant only need to give one months’ notice, and so ending their tenancy before they are taken to court will limit their liability and help them move on more quickly.

We hope this explains the most current position on evictions, and how were doing everything we can to help you navigate these ever-changing rules. If you have any further questions or concerns about evictions, please speak to your local haart branch.

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